3D Fossils for K-12 Education: A Case Example Using the Giant Extinct Shark Carcharocles Megalodon
Fossils and the science of paleontology provide a charismatic gateway to integrate STEM teaching and learning. With the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), as well as the exponentially increasing use of three-dimensional (3-D) printing and scanning technology, it is a particularly opportune time to integrate a wider variety of fossils and paleontology into K–12 curricula. We describe a curricular prototype that integrates all four components of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) into authentic research using dentitions of the Neogene giant shark Megalodon (Carcharocles megalodon Agassiz, 1843). This prototype has been implemented in two middle and two high schools in California and Florida. Consistent with prior evidence-based research, student engagement increases when they have hands-on experiences with fossils, particularly with a charismatic species such as Megalodon. Access to museum specimens helps students understand big ideas in ‘Deep Time.’ In addition to engaging students in authentic STEM practices and scaffolding development of content knowledge, paleontology is an integrative science that connects and informs socially relevant topics, including long-term (macro-) evolution and climate change. The application of 3-D printing and scanning to develop curricula using fossils has immense potential in K–12 schools in the U.S.