Download Case Studies

Download Shark Teeth Forensics!

Fill out our short form to view and download the case studies packet
Download Case Studies


In this intensive sixth grade 17-day lesson students will travel to the Aurora Fossil Museum in North Carolina to hunt for fossils and visit the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh. Students will be real scientists throughout the project, taking all the steps scientists do when working to answer a specific question. This project engages students in constant research as they work in groups. It integrates all subjects, just like researchers in their field do, including science, math, social studies, ELA and technology.


Day 1

  • Students will understand how a scientist works.
  • Students will put into scale and perspective the prehistoric time periods in this Case Study (the Miocene and Pliocene) in relation to the present time.

Day 2

  • Students will become familiar with the place of study: the PCS Phosphate Mine (Lee Creek mine) in Aurora, N.C.

Day 3

  • Students will visit the Aurora Fossil Museum to become familiar with shark teeth and observe how they are arranged in the shark’s jaw. They will complete a questionnaire about what they observed at the museum.
  • Students will dig for fossils at Aurora Fossil Museum.

Day 4

  • Students will define taphonomy.
  • Students will express their ideas clearly, both verbally and in written form, while working in groups.
  • Students will make inferences when reading texts.

Day 5

  • Students will describe the geologic processes of the North Carolina Coastal Plain formation.
  • Students will identify the periods of time and geologic layers from which the fossils in the research project are found.

Day 6

  • Students will identify and name the parts of shark teeth.
  • Students will sort through phosphate mine sediment to find shark teeth.

Day 7

  • Students will identify shark teeth using photos or a dichotomous key on tooth morphology.

Days 8-9

  • Students will create questions related to the data they collect when measuring shark teeth.
  • Students will measure shark teeth using the measuring card given and/or the Dino-Lite camera and record that data on a table.

Days 10-12

  • Students will use measures of center and variability to analyze data.
  • Students will create dot plots, frequency bar graphs and box plots with the shark teeth data they have collected.

Day 13 (optional)

  • Students will use ratios to analyze teeth data.
  • Students will make scatter plots.

Day 14

  • Students will make inferences about prehistoric environments by analyzing data they collected.
  • Students will answer the group question from Days 8-9 using data and research.

Days 15-16

  • Students will use Piktochart to create a group report.
  • Students will provide a clear, informative report of their case study findings for a presentation.

Day 17

  • Students will work in groups to summarize their research project before an audience using a multimedia presentation.

Lesson 1 Standards Addressed

North Carolina Essential Standards

6.E.2 Understand the structure of the earth and how interactions of constructive and destructive forces have resulted in changes in the surface of the Earth over time and the effects of the lithosphere on humans.

8.E.2 Understand the history of Earth and its life forms based on evidence of change recorded in fossil records and landforms.

8.L.4 Understand the evolution of organisms and landforms based on evidence, theories and processes that impact the Earth over time.

6.SI.1 Analyze resources to determine their reliability, point of view, bias, and relevance for particular topics and purposes.

6.TT.1 Use technology and other resources for the purpose of accessing, organizing, and sharing information.

6.RP.1 Apply a research process for collaborative or individual research.

6.SE.1 Apply responsible behaviors when using information and technology resources.

6.G.1.3 Compare distinguishing characteristics of various world regions (e.g., physical features, culture, political organization and ethnic make-up).

Next Generation Science Standards

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-ESS1-4 Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence from rock strata for how the geologic time scale is used to organize Earth’s 4.6-billion-year-old history.

MS-ESS2-1 Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth’s materials and the flow of energy that drives this process.

MS-ESS2-3 Analyze and interpret data on the distribution of fossils and rocks, continental shapes, and seafloor structures to provide evidence of the past plate motions.

MS-ETS1-1 Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.

Common Core Standards

ELA-Literacy.RI.6.1 Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

ELA-Literacy.RI.6.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings.

ELA-Literacy.RI.6.5 Analyze how a particular sentence, paragraph, chapter, or section fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the ideas.

ELA-Literacy.RI.6.7 Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.

ELA-Literacy.SL.6.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

ELA-Literacy.SL.6.2 Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study.

ELA-Literacy.SL.6.3 Delineate a speaker’s argument and specific claims, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.

ELA-Literacy.SL.6.4 Present claims and findings, sequencing ideas logically and using pertinent descriptions, facts, and details to accentuate main ideas or themes; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

ELA-Literacy.SL.6.5 Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, images, music, sound) and visual displays in presentations to clarify information.

ELA-Literacy.RL.6.1 Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

ELA-Literacy.RL.6.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

ELA-Literacy.RL.6.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone

ELA-Literacy.RL.6.5 Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.

ELA-Literacy.RL.6.6 Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.

ELA-Literacy.RL.6.7 Compare and contrast a written story, drama, or poem to its audio, filmed, staged, or multimedia version, analyzing the effects of techniques unique to each medium (e.g., lighting, sound, color, or camera focus and angles in a film).

ELA-Literacy.L.6.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

ELA-Literacy.L.6.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

ELA-Literacy.L.6.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 6 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

ELA-Literacy.W.6.1 Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

ELA-Literacy.W.6.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

ELA-Literacy.W.6.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.)

ELA-Literacy.W.6.5 With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1-3 up to and including grade 6 here.)

ELA-Literacy.W.6.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of three pages in a single sitting.

ELA-Literacy.W.6.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and refocusing the inquiry when appropriate.

ELA-Literacy.W.6.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources; assess the credibility of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and providing basic bibliographic information for sources.

ELA-Literacy.W.6.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Math.Content.6.NS.C.5 Understand that positive and negative numbers are used together to describe quantities having opposite directions or values (e.g., temperature above/below zero, elevation above/below sea level, credits/debits, positive/negative electric charge); use positive and negative numbers to represent quantities in real-world contexts, explaining the meaning of 0 in each situation.

Math.Content.6.NS.C.6 Understand a rational number as a point on the number line. Extend number line diagrams and coordinate axes familiar from previous grades to represent points on the line and in the plane with negative number coordinates.

Math.Content.6.RP.A.1 Understand the concept of a ratio and use ratio language to describe a ratio relationship between two quantities.

Math.Content.6.RP.A.3 Use ratio and rate reasoning to solve real-world and mathematical problems, e.g., by reasoning about tables of equivalent ratios, tape diagrams, double number line diagrams, or equations.

Math.Content.6.NS.C.7.b Write, interpret, and explain statements of order for rational numbers in real-world contexts.

Math.Content.6.SP.A.1 Recognize a statistical question as one that anticipates variability in the data related to the question and accounts for it in the answers.

Math.Content.6.SP.A.2 Understand that a set of data collected to answer a statistical question has a distribution which can be described by its center, spread, and overall shape.

Math.Content.6.SP.A.3 Recognize that a measure of center for a numerical data set summarizes all of its values with a single number, while a measure of variation describes how its values vary with a single number.

Math.Content.6.SP.B.4 Display numerical data in plots on a number line, including dot plots, histograms, and box plots.

Math.Content.6.SP.B.5 Summarize numerical data sets in relation to their context, such as by:

  • 6.SP.B.5.a Reporting the number of observations.
  • 6.SP.B.5.b Describing the nature of the attribute under investigation, including how it was measured and its units of measurement.
  • 6.SP.B.5.c Giving quantitative measures of center (median and/or mean) and variability (interquartile range and/or mean absolute deviation), as well as describing any overall pattern and any striking deviations from the overall pattern with reference to the context in which the data were gathered.
  • 6.SP.B.5.d Relating the choice of measures of center and variability to the shape of the data distribution and the context in which the data were gathered.

Math.Content.8.SP.A.1 Construct and interpret scatter plots for bivariate measurement data to investigate patterns of association between two quantities. Describe patterns such as clustering, outliers, positive or negative association, linear association, and nonlinear association.