Fueling Fun with Fossils at Cherry Avenue

DR. Russo from SUNY Stony Brook
  • The words “Functional Morphology”—written on the T-shirts of the SUNY Stony Brook guests—may have been big words for Ms. Kara Varga’s Fourth-grade students to say, but the focus was on FUN. 

    Dr. Gabrielle Russo and her team of Stony Brook University students from the Department of Anthropology recently visited Cherry Avenue elementary school to share their love for the study of fossils. Dr. Gabrielle Russo told the students, “Morphology is just a fancy word for bones and muscles in anatomy. And we’re interested in how bones and muscles function in our anatomy.”

    To illustrate what she meant, her Functional Morphology team had set up three stations in the multipurpose room with curious artifacts to demonstrate how animals are related, how animals move, and what animals eat. 

    “You’re going to be the scientists,” Dr. Russo continued, “and you’re going to look at the bones of all these different animals and at the associations between what these animals do, what they look like, what they might do in their environment, what they might eat. Then you’re going to use your own scientific judgment to make inferences about fossils when we can no longer observe what those animals did because they’ve been extinct for maybe millions of years.”

    Ms. Varga’s Fourth graders were up to the challenge. As the elementary students rotated through the stations, the Stony Brook lab members worked with them at each of the tables, guiding them through questions and assisting them in making deductions about the bones and samples on display.  Not only were the Cherry Avenue students eager to show what they knew from their classes about fossils with Ms. Varga, they  truly enjoyed what they learned from the mobile, hands-on fossil-lab brought to them by the Stony Brook archeology and paleontology departments. 

    Fourth-grader Ryan Batterberry commented that, “The students from Stony Brook kept us learning,” while Katie Sinacori added, “They worked so hard it ended up to be amazing.”  Dylan Price remarked, “Now I know extraordinary things about fossils.” The whole class agreed that they had a lot of fun and wanted to thank Dr. Russo and her team for their hard work and taking the time to visit at Cherry Avenue.

    Special thanks go to Dr. Russo and her team of SUNY Stony Brook graduate and undergraduate students: Mehar Bharatiya, Daphne Hudson, Sarah Mincer, Lydia Myers, Abigail Nishimura, Gillian Pollhein, and Michaela Winkeler who interacted with the students. Also, special thanks to Mrs. Alberti from Stony Brook’s Department of Anthropology who was instrumental in arranging this exciting, visiting elementary program.


Shark teeth
Check out bones of animals
studying the materials
Dr. Russo
Three stations of fossils