Paleoclimates and Pollen

In this activity, students examine pictures of pollen grains representing several species that show the structural differences that scientists use for identification. Students analyze model soil samples with material mixed in to represent pollen grains. They then determine the type and amount of 'pollen' in the samples and, using information provided to them, determine the type of vegetation and age of their samples. Finally, they make some conclusions about the likely climate at the time the pollen was shed.

Go To:

S. Henderson
S. Holman
L. Mortensen (eds. modified)

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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

Questions like "Why does climate change over time?" need to be addressed after stimulating the students with this activity.

Educators should show an image of a real soil core so students can differentiate between the model and reality.

Educators should note that all soil layers do not have unique pollen and that pollen is not often well preserved in sediments.

Educators need to be explicit about what is modeled and what is real; e.g. potting soil is very different than a real soil sample from a lake from a certain time period.

Educators should include a discussion on the difficulty of deciding on boundaries between sedimentation layers and touch on dating techniques of these layers. In the activity, dates are given but no explanation is provided.

Keys to types of pollen and climate are found in tables and student answer sheets.