Measuring a Triceratops Footprint at Great Wood School

Children at Great Wood Primary have been busy studying dinosaurs as part of their summer term’s teaching activities.  The teaching team have developed a wide range of activities for their young charges and a team member from Everything Dinosaur visited Year 2 to help reinforce some of this learning and to provide some expertise to assist the budding young palaeontologists with their explorations.

The children had lots of questions, for example, one question asked was what is your favourite dinosaur?  A tricky question but perhaps Protoceratops would be a strong contender.  Known as the “sheep of the Cretaceous”,  a reference to the size of this dinosaur and to the amount of fossils of this dinosaur found in Mongolia, Protoceratops belonged to the same family group of dinosaurs as Triceratops.   An idea to help the school children learn about how to express data might be for them to produce a tally count recording the favourite prehistoric animals of the class.  This data could then be compiled into a bar chart.  The picture below shows a typical bar chart which has been generated following a tally count exercise by Year 2 children.

A Bar Chart Recording Favourite Dinosaurs

A tally count and then a bar chart to plot the data.

A tally count and then a bar chart to plot the data.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Dinosaurs as a term topic, does lend itself to all sorts of extension activities.  Dinosaurs seem to have enthused both the pupils and the teachers at Great Wood Primary.

Miss Bolton and her class have been studying dinosaur footprints.  Scientists can learn a lot from the footprints and tracks preserved as trace fossils.  The class have created a colourful poster display of a Triceratops footprint.  Their poster shows the various ways in which the class could measure the size of the footprint of this four-legged, herbivorous dinosaur.

Pupils Measure a Triceratops Footprint

Triceratops Footprint Gets Measured

Triceratops Footprint Gets Measured.

The children compared the size of their feet to the scaled up version of the footprint made by a Triceratops.   Footprints can provide ichnologists (scientists who specialise in studying trackways) with a lot of information.  For example, the shape of the print provides an indication about the sort of animal that left that track.  Long-necked dinosaurs (Sauropods) produced rounded or oval shaped prints, whilst meat-eating dinosaurs made three-toed prints (tridactyl) prints in most cases.  The direction of travel of the animal can be worked out.  In the picture above, showing the children’s poster, Everything Dinosaur has put an arrow in the top right-hand corner indicating the direction this Triceratops was moving in.  Just like our own footprints, the marks left by the toes show the direction of travel.

With Triceratops, this isolated print can tell us something more.  Triceratops had five toes on its front legs, but only four toes on its back legs.  By counting the toes, scientists can work out whether this print was made by a front foot, or a back foot.  There is a lot of information that can be obtained from studying fossilised footprints.  Dinosaur tracks have been found all over the world, although they are much rarer than fossilised bones.  Footprints are only preserved when conditions for potential preservation are absolutely right.  The ground must be soft enough to hold an impression of the print, but not too soft as the prints will soon collapse and fill in.  The footprints must be covered quickly by something that protects them such as sediment or sand. In these exceptional circumstances tracks made by a dinosaur or even a whole herd of dinosaurs might be preserved.

A Trackway of a Dinosaur from the Yemen

A dinosaur walked this way.

A dinosaur walked this way.

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