Great A-level day with Altrincham Grammar School

A couple of weeks ago we had a great A-level day with students from Altrincham Grammar School.

Fossil assemblage workshop

Louise Sutherland (from the learning team) and I met the group of students at about 10 and we went up to the Life Lab for the workshops. We began with the drawing fossils workshop, concentrating on bivalves, brachiopods and trilobites. The beauty of running this session in the museum is that we use complete fossils from the collection that really help with the drawings.

After this I showed them some of the more spectacular trilobites from the collection and we went on to the next activity: reconstructing fossil enviroments. The students were given a mystery box of fossils and asked to interpret the environment and deduce the age. The students did really well and by the end of the session were able to sum up their findings using fossils and range charts.

We then looked at more spectacular fossils from the Solnhofen Limestone and some amber.

Store tour

After lunch, we went on a tour of the stores and did the new dinosaur footprints workshop. The workshop uses amazing footprint fossils from the collection and asks the students to interpret a simulated trackway. This was done through measuring stride and foot lengths and calculating height and speed.

The workshops and tours seemed to go down a storm and the evaluation showed it was an exciting and useful introdouction to fossils at A-level.

If you would like to book a workshop, please go to the post 16 page.

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Ammonites help tell Manchester about Darwin

Staff and volunteers here at the museum have just finished putting together objects for our Darwin outreach programme.  About 20 objects will be taken to community groups around Manchester in the new year to help talk about our Darwin exhibition. Some of the most exciting objects are a collection of ammonites showing evolution over millions of years.

The pattern of the edge of the chambers inside the shell changes over time. The oldest ammonite which is 340 million years old shows a simple curved pattern on the shell. The next oldest is 330 million years old and shows a looped pattern. The youngest at 200 million years old, shows a very complicated pattern.

All the ammonites are all from Britain and show how fossils have changed over time by the process of natural selection. The different patterns are used by geologists to tell how old the rocks are. The fossils always follow this pattern nomatter where they have been found.

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