Teaching Resources - Reading Climate Change from Fossil Leaves

Fossil leaf from warming period 55 million years ago. Smithsonian image.

The percentage of plants with smooth edges, liked this lobed leaf fossil from a warming period 55 million years ago, is a good indicator of climate. Smithsonian photo.

STEM Subject: 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:


Webcast (video) and Podcast (audio) Shows

Printable Lessons 

Online Activities 

Science Literacy Resources 

Middle School Level

High School Level 

Gifted Readers 

Posters and Worksheets 




The Climate Change from Fossil Leaves teaching resources support students in meeting the NGSS Performance Expectations:

MS-ESS3 Earth and Human Activities

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

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

Welcome! Please take a short survey:

Click to select a number