ALTHOUGH PEOPLE are enthusiastic about science, it is appalling when a recent survey by the National Science Foundation indicates that only about 25 percent of American adults can correctly answer basic science questions. Interestingly, those surveyed admitted that they were not well-informed about technical subjects. Presumably, this contrast of enthusiasm versus actual knowledge translates to children as well as adults. With these points in mind, the importance of presenting scientific concepts in a variety of creative ways utilizing multiple approaches is critical if we are to have a scientifically literate society. A society that we expect to make informed decisions concerning matters related to science. Although textbooks present various scientific topics, often it is difficult for students to understand the concepts, appreciate the importance, and retain the information relating to relevant scientific subjects. Paleontology has the unique advantage of not only being a mixture of two very important areas of science (biology and geology), but perhaps more than any other area of science, it can be used as a "lure" to present fundamental concepts in the sciences through the study of prehistoric animals.

Many people are unaware that extant organisms represent only a small percentage of the total diversity of life that has inhabited our planet over the past 4.5 billion years. Many types of animals and plants have existed and most are now extinct. As paleontology (the study of past life) is an integral mix of geology and biology, a knowledge of modern organisms and environments provides the basis for the understanding of past life. An understanding of the changes that have occurred through time (i.e., evolution) on our planet is important to fully comprehend modern events. Although evolutionary processes are difficult to observe, extinction can be seen at an alarming rate today.

With so many resources available today, it is important that instructors are aware of their availability and examine ways to incorporate these resources into their curricula. The following papers discuss many of these creative methods in instruction, including the use of museums (both in and out of the classroom), field trips, and video instruction. Several examples are cited that use the cornucopia of Internet information. All allow students to learn about the exciting past life and environments that once existed on our planet.