Lesson Plan

Death Traps

The Agate Fossil Beds Diorama showing the waterhole death trap.

NPS photo

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Grade Level:
Fifth Grade-Eighth Grade
Climate Change, Geology, Paleontology
30 - 45 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 24
National/State Standards:
Grades 3-5: 1.2, 5.1.2.a, 3.4, 5.3.4.a
Grades 6-8  4.4, 8.4.4.b


This scripted slideshow describes the process by which animals have died and become fossilized in waterholes, influenced by a severe drought. It compares two sites, separated by 13 million years, Agate Fossil Beds and the Badlands. Through description, analysis, and comparison of two different locations, students will learn principles relating to the behavior, habitat and survival of living animals, as well as scientific study of past life forms known as fossils, and severe climatic events.


Students will name three fossil animals from Agate Fossil Beds.

Students will make comparisons between fossil animals found at Agate Fossil Beds and fossil animals found at Badlands.

Students will recite climatic conditions that occurred at the time of the ancient death scenes.


Teacher downloads the Power Point and the script to conduct activity.



Teachers assess learning by overseeing or engaging a ranger from Agate Fossil Beds (308-668-2211 or 308-436-9760) in a question and answer session after the presentation. Students write reports or create a diorama depicting the "Death Trap".

Park Connections

This lesson directly relates to the waterbed death scene at Agate Fossil Beds. On-site field trips include discussion at the Diorama exhibit depicting the death scene and one of the guided hikes exploring the historic excavation areas and the area where the paleontologists worked and lived.


Certain words have been underlined in the text as possible vocabulary words.

Last updated: February 27, 2015