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NIMBioS Education Module

Fossil Finder!

This educational computer game was designed for grades 6-8, but may be enjoyed by more advanced students as well. In this game, players at a fossil excavation site travel up and down in a mining elevator to collect fossils from different geologic eras. While they race against the clock to dig through rock and find fossils, they must apply the fundamentals of scientific notation, exponent laws, and the concepts of stratigraphy, deep time, and the increasing complexity of life over time to become the best fossil finder!

The computer game was developed as a part of NIMBioS' Summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates 2016 (SRE) project Developing Computer Games for Teaching Biology. Three undergraduate students designed and developed this game under the guidance of their project mentors. This game was inspired by and adapted from the Biology in a Box Fossil Unit.

Materials Needed:
The Fossil Finder Computer Game is played through a web browser at //sre/FossilFinder. This game runs on the Unity Pro Web Player on Windows or Mac OS X. The plugin does not work with Google Chrome. Depending on your internet connection, it may take a while for the game to load. Please be patient! Avoid hitting your browser's "back" button, which will cause the game to reload.

How to Play

  • Use the left and right arrow keys to move around. Press "H" to access the home screen with instructions, and the "Return to Game" button to go back to the fossil excavation site.
  • To your left an elevator will take you to the stratum, or geologic layer, corresponding to a time period of your choice. The elevator requires the number of years that you wish to go into the past. However, the elevator requires numbers to be entered in a variety of formats, meaning that you will have to convert the number given.
  • Use the number keys on your keyboard to enter the appropriate digits. Use the 'enter' or 'return' key to move on to the next input box.
  • Once at the stratum, begin excavating fossils by using the spacebar to chisel away the rock layer. Simply remove rock until you find a fossil. After you have found a fossil, you must return to the elevator with your discovery (you wouldn't want it to be damaged, after all). Once back at the elevator, you may once again choose the layer corresponding to the time period that you would like to learn about.
  • A timeline for reference is located on the left side of the screen so that you have some idea when and for how long each of the time periods occurred.
  • You receive points for finding fossils. Fossils that you have not seen before are worth more points. Additionally, at the top of the screen, look for a 'bonus fossil' that is worth extra points. Going to the time period of that fossil will allow you to find that fossil.
  • However, keep in mind that you only have five minutes to do all your excavation, but this doesn't include time traveling in the elevator, so feel free to move between layers as much as you wish. The time limit also does not include time on the menu or reading about the fossils you find. Your remaining time as well as score is located in the upper right corner of the screen.
  • Note that within the game there is a tutorial on scientific notation and exponent laws and information about geologic time and eras that players may find helpful.
  • Have fun exploring!

Science and Mathematics Standards

Other NIMBioS education modules

For further information, please contact:

Suzanne Lenhart
Associate Director for Education and Outreach
Ph: (865) 974-4270 (Math)   (865) 974-9349 (NIMBioS)   Fax: (865) 974-9300
NIMBioS, 1122 Volunteer Blvd., Suite 106
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996-3410

1122 Volunteer Blvd., Suite 106
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996-3410
PH: (865) 974-9334
FAX: (865) 974-9461
Contact NIMBioS

From 2008 until early 2021, NIMBioS was supported by the National Science Foundation through NSF Award #DBI-1300426, with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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