Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Reading Climate Change from Fossil Leaves


National Middle School Science Standards

Earth Science, Life Science

Key Terms

paleobotany, climate change, fossil leaves, fossil record, PETM, Cretaceous period

Key Concepts

  • Global climate change over time 
  • Interpreting ecosystem changes through fossils
  • Plants as climate indicators 
  • Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum  
  • Technology used by paleobotanists

Resource Types

Botany & Horticulture Subject Guide Smithsonian Libraries

Paleontology Subject Guide Smithsonian Libraries

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

The Climate Change from Fossil Leaves teaching resources support students in meeting the following middle school NGSS Performance Expectations.

Earth Science

MS-ESS3 Earth and Human Activity

  • MS-ESS3-5 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.

Life Science

MS-LS4 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

  • MS-LS4-1 Analyze and interpret data for patterns in the fossil record that document the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of life forms throughout the history of life on Earth under the assumption that natural laws operate today as in the past.

  • MS-LS4-2 Apply scientific ideas to construct an explanation for the anatomical similarities and differences among modern organisms and between modern and fossil organisms to infer evolutionary relationships.

  • MS-LS4-4 Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals' probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment.

  • MS-LS4-6 Use mathematical representations to support explanations of how natural selection may lead to increases and decreases of specific traits in populations over time

Resource Type
Subject Guides
Grade Level
Learning Standards
Next Generation Science Standards
Earth Science, Life Science, Paleontology