Category: Educational Activities

Would a Dinosaur Make a Good Pet?

Year 2 at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School Consider a Pet Dinosaur

Children in Year 2 at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School (Matlock, Derbyshire), have been tackling the tricky question of would dinosaurs make good pets?  This poser is one of the questions being explored as part of a series of themes for the summer term.  So far the children have learned about dinosaur eggs and taken part in some outdoor measuring activities under the guidance of their enthusiastic teacher Miss Sutcliffe.  It’s a good job the school has a large playground, especially when it comes to working out how tall a Brachiosaurus was.

Brachiosaurus was one of the largest of the dinosaurs, a huge plant-eater, fossils of which have been found in Upper Jurassic rocks.  The children estimated that a twelve metre tall Brachiosaurus would be the same height as nineteen Year 2 children.  This is a super exercise and certainly helps children gain an appreciation of the size and scale of some of the biggest dinosaurs.

One of the Biggest Dinosaurs of the Late Jurassic

A typical Brachiosaur.

A typical Brachiosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Trouble is, Brachiosaurus (the name means “Arm Lizard” as the forelimbs were larger than the back legs), was not the tallest of the Dinosauria.  As more fossils have been found so different contenders for the “tallest dinosaur “accolade are proposed.  One contender, known from four neck bones and a handful of other fossil specimens found in rocks dating from the Early Cretaceous of the United States, is Sauroposeidon (the name means “Earthquake Lizard”).  Sauroposeidon is pronounced sore-oh-poh-sigh-don.  One of the neck bones measures 1.4 metres long, that is taller than most of the Year 2 children at the school.

Size estimates for Sauroposeidon do vary.  With so few fossils to study, it is difficult to work out just how tall, or indeed just how long or how heavy this dinosaur was.  Palaeontologists are not even sure if Sauroposeidon had the same basic body shape of Brachiosaurus.  However, if it did, then it could have been around 18-20 metres tall.

Sauroposeidon Compared to Brachiosaurus

Scaling up Sauroposeidon and comparing it to Brachiosaurus and an extant African elephant.

Scaling up Sauroposeidon and comparing it to Brachiosaurus and an extant African elephant.

If nineteen Year 2 children are as tall as a twelve metre high Brachiosaurus, then can the class work out how many of them would be needed to be the same height as a twenty metre tall Sauroposeidon?

Miss Sutcliffe and her teaching assistant have certainly developed a challenging and engaging scheme of work for the class.  The dinosaur workshop we conducted certainly helped as we were able to answer the children’s questions and some of those questions were quite challenging.  For example, we were asked how did dinosaurs chew bones?  Fortunately, some of the fossils we had with us were useful in demonstrating how some types of dinosaur ate.

The spacious and well-organised classroom had lots of dinosaur themed displays.  We were informed that after our visit the children would be designing a habitat for their dinosaurs.  This links nicely into the English national curriculum as this enables the children to learn about living creatures and what they need to survive.  Perhaps the children can compare the world of the dinosaurs with habitats seen today and the types of animals that exist in those habitats.   It was pleasing to note that Year 2 had a good grasp of the terminology related to ecosystems and food chains.  For example, the children were able to explain all about omnivores.  Our cast of the lower jaw of a Pachycephalosaur (Dracorex hogwartsia), proved useful when it came to explaining about animals that ate both meat and plants.  Dracorex might make a good pet dinosaur, it would have helped keep the school’s vegetable garden pest free, but a downside might be that it would be tempted to eat all the flowers!

A Colourful Dinosaur Themed Display in the Classroom

St Joseph's Catholic Primary School (Year 2) dinosaur display.

St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School (Year 2) dinosaur display.

Picture Credit: Year 2/Everything Dinosaur

We set the class a number of challenges as part of the extension ideas and activities we discussed with Miss Sutcliffe and we look forward to hearing how the children get on as they explore all things dinosaur for their summer term topic.

Retracing the Beak of Birds to the Snout of Dinosaurs

Reverse Genetic Engineering to Produce a Dinosaur Snout

A team of scientists based in the United States have tweaked the developmental processes that take place in chicken embryos to re-engineer the snouts of their dinosaur ancestors.  The research team led by University of Yale palaeontologist, Bhart-Anjan S. Bhullar and developmental biologist Arhat Abzhanov (Harvard University), have produced the first bird embryos that possess a snout similar to a dinosaur’s nose rather than a beak.  The chicken embryos developed palatial bones and a jaw configuration that resembles that seen in the fossil record, specifically in the Dromaeosauridae, a group of dinosaurs that are closely related to modern Aves.  The Dromaeosaurs, sometimes referred to as the “raptors” belong to the Sub-order Theropoda.  They are part of a clade of agile dinosaurs that reduced their tails, lost their teeth and evolved into Aves (birds).  Typical dromaeosaurids are Velociraptor, Deinonychus and the recently named Saurornitholestes sullivani.

To read an article about the newly described Saurornitholestes sullivaniSniffing Out a New Dinosaur Species

As the Yale University press release states: “Just don’t call them Dino-chickens!”

Tweaking the Beak from Dromaeosaurs to Modern Birds

From the Dinosauria (left) to the beaks of modern Aves (right).

From the Dinosauria (left) to the beaks of modern Aves (right).

Picture Credit: John Conway

The scientists were not in the business of trying to create a living dinosaur.  Manipulation of chicken embryos has taken place for several years, all part of research to help the understanding of how molecular processes affect the development of organisms.

Commenting on this research, which has just been published in the journal “Evolution”, lead author Dr. Bhart-Anjan S. Bhullar (Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Yale) stated:

“Our goal here was to understand the molecular underpinnings of an important evolutionary transition, not to create a “dino-chicken” simply for the sake of it.”

For the young doctor, this is all part of his on-going research into cranial development in very young animals.  It is not part of a concerted effort to bring back the Dinosauria, a sort of “Jurassic Park from the embryo upwards”, as explained by a spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur.

There are a huge variety of bird beaks, from the curved, tearing and cutting beaks of eagles, to the sophisticated sieves of flamingos.  The beak is an essential component of avian anatomy and the researchers are trying to unravel how the beak evolved from its reptilian ancestry.  A quantitative analysis of fossils closely associated with the origins of birds was undertaken along with a study of extant animals including lizards, crocodiles and birds.  This examination allowed the scientists to develop a hypothesis as to how the bird beak may have evolved from the Dinosauria and the developmental stages that were involved.

The team identified that both major living lineages of birds, the abundant Neognathae (which includes virtually all species of extant birds) and the much rarer  Palaeognathae (which comprises the Tinamou family of birds from South and Central America plus the flightless ratites – cassowary, ostrich, kiwi, rhea, for example), differ from reptiles that are not closely related to birds and from mammals in that they have a unique, median gene expression zone of two different facial development genes early in embryonic development.  This median gene expression had previously only been identified in chicken embryos.

Turning Back the Evolutionary Clock

In order to have an embryo revert to its ancestral state, before the beak as it were, the gene expression for beak formation in the young chicken had to be turned off.  Microscopic beads coated in a molecule inhibiting substance were used to inhibit the activity of the proteins produced by the bird specific, median signalling zone in the chicken embryos.  This led the embryo to revert back to its reptilian ancestry with a more dinosaur-like snout forming and surprisingly, the palatine bone in the root of the mouth was also altered.

Changing the Faces of Embryos (Modified Chicken Embryo with Snout)

Normal chick (left), modified chicken embryo (centre), alligator embryo (right)

Normal chick (left), modified chicken embryo (centre), alligator embryo (right)

Picture Credit: Evolution

Dr. Bhullar was surprised by the additional changes seen in the palatine bone, he stated:

“This was unexpected and demonstrates the way in which a single, simple developmental mechanism can have wide-ranging and unexpected effects.”

Commenting on the research, Professor Michael Benton (Bristol University), someone who knows a great deal about bird evolution, explained that this new study shows that the beak of birds develops very different from the snouts, noses and jaws of reptiles.  A different set of genes are involved.

He stated:

“That’s what proves the beak is a real adaptation or “thing”, not just a slightly different nose shape”

Why Beaks?

Intriguingly, although the fossil record for bird evolution is far from complete, the fantastically well preserved bird fossils of Lower Cretaceous deposits from China, specimens of Confuciusornis for instance, show that by around 125 million years ago the toothless beak had evolved.  Why the beak came about remains a point of significant debate, however, one of the most often cited reasons for a lighter, toothless structure is that as birds became more efficient fliers and spent more time in the air, the loss of a heavy, bony jaw lined with teeth was just one of a number of anatomical adaptations that occurred to help improve powered flight.

The “Early Bird” Confuciusornis sanctus from China

Confuciusornis sanctus a primitive bird but it had a beak.

Confuciusornis sanctus a primitive bird but it had a beak.

The American based researchers are confident that their work has important implications for other geneticists and for palaeontologists.  For example, if a single molecular mechanism was responsible for this transformation, there should be a corresponding, linked transformation in the fossil record.  The flightless, man-sized Hesperornis, a genus of prehistoric bird known from the Late Cretaceous of North America could demonstrate that link.

An Illustration of Hesperornis (Traditional View)

Hesperornis catching a fish.

Hesperornis catching a fish.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Brooke Bond

Dr. Bhullar said:

“This is borne out by the fact that Hesperornis, discovered by Othniel Charles Marsh of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, which is a near relative of modern birds that still retains teeth and the most primitive stem avian with a modern-looking beak in the form of a fused, elongate premaxillae, also possesses a modern bird palatine bone.”

The premaxillae are the bones that form the tip of the upper jaw (anterior portion) of most animals, but are enlarged and fused to form the beak of birds.

Moving forward, the quantitative analysis to establish a proposed hypothetical developmental path of a lineage of animals which could be tested by inhibiting the behaviour of proteins in embryos can be probably be used to investigate a wide range of underlying developmental mechanisms in organisms.

The dinosaur/bird link is now well established, a theory once proposed by the likes of Henry Govier Seeley back in the 1880′s is widely accepted.  Back in 2013, Everything Dinosaur reported on research from an international team of scientists, including researchers from the Royal Veterinary College (London), that looked at how the posture of birds was derived from the gait of small, cursorial dinosaurs.

To read more about this study: The Birds Have the Dinosaurs to Thank for their Crouching Gait

Everything Dinosaur notes the support of Yale University in the compilation of this article.

Great Work from Great Wood Primary School

Year 2 Learn All About Dinosaurs in the Great Outdoors

It was certainly an interesting morning when Everything Dinosaur visited the two classes of Year 2 at Great Wood Primary School (Morecambe).  The children had just started learning all about prehistoric animals as part of their term topic “Jurassic Forest”.  One of our fossil experts visited the school as part of the planned scheme of work to help inspire and enthuse children and teachers alike.  Unfortunately, the fire alarm sounded part way through the first session and the whole school had to be evacuated.

However, it was a sunny day, so undaunted, we were able to continue by moving everything outside.  With the minimum of fuss, the pupils in Mrs Parkin’s class settled themselves down in the playground  and we were able to deliver a second workshop.   Everything Dinosaur’s “Dinosaur Mike” challenged the two classes (2T with Mrs Todd and 2P with Mrs Parkin), to send in thank you letters as part of an agreed extension activity to help encourage the children with their composition and sure enough, at the end of last week, we received a large envelope which contained letters and some very colourful dinosaur drawings.

 A Wonderful Set of Letters Sent in by Year 2

Letters and drawings sent in by children at Great Wood Primary.

Letters and drawings sent in by children at Great Wood Primary.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Great Wood Primary School

Writing a thank you letter to Everything Dinosaur is a good way for the teaching team to check learning following a recount activity.  This composition exercise helps young learners practice sentence sequencing, planning their writing, as well as spelling and the layout and format of a letter.  The children can also read their letters out aloud as part of a further teaching activity within the class.

Examples of Thank You Letters Received by Everything Dinosaur

Super examples of letter writing from the children.

Super examples of letter writing from the children.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Great Wood Primary School

Thank you Eva and Zak for your lovely letters.

Some children had taken the opportunity to draw pictures of fossils and prehistoric animals on the back of their thank you letters.  We were impressed with the drawings and we shall pin some of these up onto our warehouse notice board.

Year Two Sent in some Colourful Drawings

Can you spot the Ammonites?

Can you spot the Ammonites?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Super writing from Izzy and Mae with two lovely drawings too.

So Many Letters for Us to Read!

An example of one of the letters we received, thank you Dylan.

An example of one of the letters we received, thank you Dylan.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Dinosaur Mike commented:

“Once it was realised that the fire alarm going off was due to building work being undertaken around the school, the teaching team and administration staff at Great Wood Primary soon got all the children organised.  After the fire drill procedures had been carried out, we were able to continue the dinosaur themed workshop outside.  Fortunately, it was sunny and not too cold.  We were able to adjust our lesson plan and continue working.  We do appreciate that, just like the teachers, we sometimes have to be very flexible.”

Nina’s Very Bright and Cheerful Thank You Letter

We were sent lots of very colourful letters.

We were sent lots of very colourful letters.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Nina asked “How long did the dinosaurs last?”  The first dinosaurs evolved perhaps as early as 240 million years ago, the last of the Dinosauria died out 65 million years ago.  That’s a really good question, well done Nina.

Our thanks to 2T and 2P for sending us some wonderful examples of writing.

Dinosaur Day at Yew Tree Primary

Key Stage 1 Study Dinosaurs

A busy day yesterday working with Year 1 and Year 2 classes at Yew Tree Community Primary School in Tameside.  Arriving nice and early our dinosaur expert was able to have a chat to the teaching team to gain an appreciation of the learning objectives and to ensure that the dinosaur workshops dove-tailed into the overall scheme of work.  Like many primary schools, Yew Tree Community has experienced a big increase in pupil numbers in recent years and Key Stage 1 is made up of five classes, so in order to maximise the amount of teaching, the school hall was used for the day (apart when lunch was served and then it was a question of dinner with the dinosaurs).

The Children were Keen to Show the “Dinosaur Eggs” They had Discovered

Very colourful "dinosaur eggs".

Very colourful “dinosaur eggs”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The dedicated teaching team had developed an exciting range of activities, all part of the dinosaur term topic.  The photographs taken during the dinosaur workshops will certainly support the teaching work, with lots of recounting and recalling.  During the lunch break, Everything Dinosaur’s workshop leader saw some lovely examples of creative writing undertaken by Year 1, the children had certainly been inspired by the fossils.  After a busy day of teaching, it was straight back to the office to email over further materials and extension resources for use in a number of activities that we had planned with the teaching team during the course of the day.

With the first part of the Summer Term quite short, there is a lot to pack in so it was important to get the extension materials emailed over to the school as quickly as we could.

To contact Everything Dinosaur to learn more about our work in schools: Email Everything Dinosaur

Plastic Dinosaur Skeleton Models – Great for Creative Play

Plastic Dinosaur Skeletons from Everything Dinosaur

A term topic on dinosaurs for Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) can provide a number of opportunities for young minds to develop through creative play.  Most children are fascinated by dinosaurs and prehistoric animals and Everything Dinosaur team members often get asked by teachers and teaching assistants for ideas on how to stimulate the class when the children have been learning about dinosaurs.  We recommend a wide range of tactile activities to help young learners explore the nature of materials and the wider world.  For example, this set of twelve plastic prehistoric animal skeletons gives the children the chance to play at being a palaeontologist.

Prehistoric Animal Skeleton Set Available from Everything Dinosaur

A set of assorted prehistoric animal and dinosaur skeletons.

A set of assorted prehistoric animal and dinosaur skeletons.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

These robust, plastic skeleton models represent a number of very well known dinosaurs.  Prehistoric creatures such as Triceratops, Stegosaurus and Brachiosaurus.  There are even some meat-eating dinosaurs and a Pterosaur (Pteranodon), in this twelve figure set.  We bury these models in the sand pit play area at the school and invite the children to excavate their own dinosaur fossils using paint brushes and plastic spades.  This is a fun activity  and the addition of a couple of magnifying glasses so that the children can examine the bones helps the pupils to feel like scientists.  These models can also be used in the wet play area as children explore which objects float.  They are a wonderful resource for Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS plastic dinosaur skeletons).

Use the Models to Make Impressions Just Like Fossils

Showing how fossils form.

Showing how fossils form.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

By pressing these study models into modelling clay the children can learn how fossils form and they can have a go at making fossils for themselves.  Each of these little models is around ten centimetres in length and as there are twelve in the series they are very useful when it comes to playing sorting and counting games, for example:

  • Sort out all the skeletons of animals that have horns
  • Group the skeletons into those that walk on four legs and those that walk on just two
  • Split the plant-eaters from the meat-eaters – can you work out which is which?

The models have a remarkable level of detail on them, the children can easily work out which model is which.  The other day, a five-year-old pointed out the Dimetrodon (not a dinosaur) to us.  We were most impressed!

To view the range of educational products available from Everything Dinosaur including these skeleton models: Educational Dinosaur Themed Learning Resources from Everything Dinosaur

We Even Used Our Dinosaur Skeletons to Make Footprints

A cheap but very effective learning resource.

A cheap but very effective learning resource.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To see the full range of educational toys, games and models that Everything Dinosaur offers: Everything Dinosaur

Providing Prehistoric Animal Drawing Materials for Foundation Stage 2

EYFS Create an Underwater Prehistoric Scene

A recent trip to a primary school to conduct a dinosaur workshop resulted in a request from one of the teaching assistants.  They had lots of blue crepe paper and they wanted to create a prehistoric scene that could be posted up onto the walls of the corridor outside the classroom for Foundation Stage 2.  However, she had not got any pictures of “sea monsters”, (her words not ours), for the children to colour in to help create the picture.  No worries, amongst all the other extension resources we supplied, we sent over a number of emails with fact sheets and drawings of a vast array of prehistoric creatures which were typical fauna of Jurassic marine environments.

Providing Pictures of the Plesiosauria to Primary Schools

Plesiosaurs and other prehistoric animals featured in the picture.

Plesiosaurs and other prehistoric animals featured in the picture.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We sent over pictures which included:

  • Jellyfish
  • Ammonites
  • Belemnites
  • Coelacanth (fish)
  • Ichthyosaurus
  • Mixosaurus (another type of Ichthyosaur)
  • Attenborosaurus (Pliosaur)
  • Liopleurodon (Pliosaur)

Lots of other prehistoric animal pictures were also sent over.  We even supplied the teaching team with an outline of a seascape that could be used as a back drop as the children in Foundation Stage 2 explored a prehistoric, undersea world.

For information on Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools and to contact our experts for a school visit quotation: Request a Quotation for a School Visit (UK only)

Dinosaurs Help the Focus on Writing at Mead Primary School

Lions, Zebras and Giraffes Learn All About Dinosaurs

Children in the Reception classes at Mead Primary in Romford (Essex, south-east England), have been learning all about dinosaurs and prehistoric animals this term.  The children discovered a giant egg in each of the three Reception classrooms (Lions, Zebras and Giraffes) and with the support of their enthusiastic teaching team, the children were encouraged to write letters to one of the dinosaur experts at Everything Dinosaur so that these strange objects could be investigated.  The discovery of the eggs is all part of a coordinated approach to help motivate and enthuse the pupils when it comes to writing.  Our dinosaur expert who visited the school, was shown some wonderful examples of the children’s work including some of the invitation letters that were on display.

One of the Eggs Discovered in the Classroom

What will happen when it hatches?

What will happen when it hatches?

Picture Credit: Mead Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

 There were lots of colourful dinosaur themed displays in the classrooms and outside in the corridor which links the Key Stage 1 classes to the rest of this, larger than average, primary school.

One of the Bright and Colourful Prehistoric Animal Themed Displays

Lots of different dinosaurs on display.

Lots of different dinosaurs on display.

Picture Credit: Mead Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

The children had been designing their own dinosaurs and there were lots of examples of hand-writing too, including some very informative fact books that the pupils had made.  The volcano in the picture had been made using fabric with coloured tissue paper as the lava, this was just one example of the use of lots of different materials and media having been incorporated into the scheme of work.  The dinosaur workshops that were delivered continued the focus on writing and vocabulary development, with the visitor challenging the children to come up with lots of describing words for the fossils and other objects that they handled.  The Foundation Stage Two children certainly knew their dinosaurs and they were keen to demonstrate their acquired knowledge.  Prior to the visit to the school by Everything Dinosaur, the teachers had encouraged the children to think of questions to ask, the budding palaeontologists had come up with a super assortment of queries.  For all those questions not answered on the day, our expert suggested a couple of writing themed extension activities to help support the classes with their enquiries.

Some of the Questions That the Children had Come up With

Questions, questions and even more questions!

Questions, questions and even more questions!

Picture Credit: Mead Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

To help the children understand how most fossils are formed our expert discussed a simple experiment the children could conduct using the water play area.  This extension activity also dove-tailed nicely into an exploration of the properties of materials in which children investigate why some objects float whilst others sink.  Dinosaurs make a great topic for primary school children to study.  The children clearly enjoyed learning all about prehistoric animals and we look forward to hearing how they got on with the dinosaur footprint measuring exercise we provided.  One of the aims of the teaching scheme of work for next week is to help the children gain a little more confidence in measuring and using numbers, the footprint exercise we provided will help the teaching team to achieve their learning objectives, providing the children with a dinosaur themed activity in support of their numeracy development.

Inspiring Displays with Lots of Evidence of Learning

Lots of examples of hand-writing on display.

Lots of examples of hand-writing on display.

Picture Credit: Mead Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

One of the classrooms even had its very own dinosaur museum.   The teachers had been inspired by the topic to come up with some very creative lesson plans and the children were clearly inspired by all things dinosaur!

To request further information on Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools: Dinosaur Workshops in Schools

The Achievosaurs – Reinforcing Positive Learning Behaviours

Soft Toy Dinosaurs Helping Young Children to Learn Life Skills (Achievosaurs)

Using a range of soft toy dinosaurs to help encourage young children to learn life skills and to reinforce positive values in schools is something Everything Dinosaur team members are very familiar with.  Now that the three inch plus dinosaur range known as the Itsy Bitsies are back in production, our team members set out to examine how one teaching concept, the “Achievosaurs,” came into being.

We were contacted by retired Bristol school teacher Lori Mitchell who explained to us how her idea for using dinosaur soft toys took shape.

Ms Mitchell explained:

“The idea for the Achievosaurs came after a South Gloucestershire Early Years course “Providing Challenge, Improving Outcomes” in October 2010.  During the day, we were asked to consider how we encourage our children to reflect on their learning, rather than just talk about their activities, and how we can help them develop the skills needed to become life-long learners.  We discussed the learning-focused qualities we wanted to encourage in our children and a colleague shared the “Curious Cat” she used with her class.  One of the Early Years advisors then said something like “you know, dinosaurs would be another idea..you could have a Thinkasaurus”…and that was it…I went home after the course and devised the Achievosaurs!”

The Achievosaurs (Dinosaur Soft Toys) in 2015

Helping to reinforce life-long learning skills.

Helping to reinforce life-long learning skills.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the dinosaur soft toys: Dinosaur Soft Toys and Achievosaurs

With the rigours of a new curriculum being rolled out across England, there is a great deal of emphasis placed upon preparing pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.  For example, the idea of introducing scientific working and the scientific method underpins a lot of Everything Dinosaur’s teaching activities in schools.  It is essential for those children at the Early Years Foundation Stage to acquire appropriate social skills as well as developing positive behaviours to help them make good progress.

We asked Lori, how the names of the first Achievosaurs came about and she explained that she based her prehistoric animal names on the specific learning qualities that she wanted to encourage in her Reception class (FS2).  For the last seven years of her working career, before taking early retirement, Lori was a teacher at Cadbury Heath Primary School, Warmley, near Bristol, South Gloucestershire (south-west England).  Using her experience, Lori devised a series of dinosaurs (plus one flying reptile), which she could use as props to help reinforce desired behaviours.

The names of Lori’s Achievosaurs were:

  • Exploring ideas and resources: Explorasor
  • Sticking to a task: Stickasaurus
  • Sharing ideas and resources: Shareadactyl
  • Trying their best: Tryatops
  • Asking questions: Askaraptor
  • Working to solve problems: Solveosaurus rex
  • Thinking carefully about tasks: Thinkadon

Over the years we have come across a number of variants, with something like 1,200 different dinosaur genera described to date and a new one being named on average every 20-30 days or so, educationalists certainly have plenty of scope.

When asked about how she came up with her Achievosaur names, Lori said:

“When I first drafted the idea, all the names ended in “asaurus,” but when I found the wonderful collection of Itsy Bitsy dinosaurs at Everything Dinosaur, my 20 year-old son got involved (dinosaurs really are any age child friendly), and selected the dinosaurs and adapted their name to “fit,” so, for example, we took Velociraptor to make “Askaraptor”.

Lori was invited to share her idea with a team of South Gloucestershire assessment co-ordinators and this simple, but very effective teaching aid has been taken up by a number of primary schools and other educational establishments.

Team members at Everything Dinosaur dedicate a lot of time to supporting teaching teams and many EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) and Key Stage 1 teachers incorporate a dinosaur themed topic into their scheme of work.  A spokesperson from the Cheshire based company stated that a topic based on prehistoric animals dove-tailed into desired learning outcomes across the curriculum, whether it was using the size and scale of dinosaurs to help build confidence with numbers or having a class imagine what it would be like to have a pet Triceratops in order to lay the foundations for some creative writing.

Dinosaurs as a Term Topic Can Encourage and Motivate Young Learners

Pupils learn about the shapes and sizes of different prehistoric animals.

Pupils learn about the shapes and sizes of different prehistoric animals.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

For further information on Everything Dinosaur’s teaching work in schools: Contact the Teaching Team at Everything Dinosaur

When asked why the likes of Tyrannosaurus rex and Stegosaurus are so popular with young learners Lori suggested:

“One reason I think is their wonderful names.  They sound fascinating, and what child doesn’t like to impress an adult by knowing long words and being able to pronounce them?  Another is that, although huge and terrifying when they lived, dinosaurs are not around anymore so they can’t get us!”

Dinosaurs enduring popularity with children (quite a few adults as well), is an area that has been explored frequently.  Team member, “Dinosaur Mike”, part of the company’s teaching team was interviewed by the BBC on this subject and he hypothesised:

“Dinosaurs are never really out of the media, so children are exposed to prehistoric animals such as Diplodocus and Tyrannosaurus rex from an early age.  When talking to Mums and Dads we know how proud they are when their son or daughter explains all about their favourite dinosaur.  With so many facts and figures associated with these prehistoric reptiles, they do help sow the seeds for an appreciation of life- long learning.”

Her Reception class loved the idea of Achievosaurs right from the start, but we wanted to know which was Lori’s own favourite.  Lori declared that she was very fond of them all as the encouragement these soft toys had given to her charges, getting them to think about learning skills and to develop positive behaviours, was of real benefit.

“It has been fantastic to hear the children identifying what they need to do in order to move their learning on, for example, suggesting they need to be a “Stickasaurus,” which concentrates, in order to learn their letters or a “Solveosaurus rex,” which makes links between ideas, when faced with a problem.  However, if I had to pick one favourite Achievosaur, I think it would be Tryatops”.

Lori explained:

“There is sometimes a perception that learning is just for “clever” children, and I think Tryatops helps to teach children that no matter what the activity or skill level, we can ALL try our best, never give up and in consequence, achieve.”

Tryatops – Based on the Horned Dinosaur Triceratops

An excellent replica of a Triceratops.

An excellent replica of a Triceratops.

Picture Credit: Safari Ltd/Everything Dinosaur

Not being discouraged, even when experimental results don’t quite turn out as expected, is an important aspect of scientific working.  Lessons learned early in life will help pupils face future challenges with more confidence.

In conclusion, we asked Lori if she could design her very own dinosaur what would it be like?

“The Achievosaurs were my first design attempt, with specific characteristics and names, to tie in with the Early Years Characteristics of Effective Learning.  I had a lot of fun inventing and writing about them and I couldn’t be more delighted that other Early Years professionals and schools have found the concept useful.  However, I’ve recently been thinking about the PSE side of things [personal, social and emotional development]: could an Achievosaur help children to take account of one another’s ideas (an Early Learning Goal) or be thoughtful/helpful?  What about a Respectadocus?  Now that the toys are back in production, anything is possible! “

At Everything Dinosaur we have had the privilege of working with a number of dedicated teaching professionals who have adopted and adapted dinosaur soft toys to assist them with their own learning objectives.  As a result, we have come across a large number of different Achievosaurs all aimed at reinforcing appropriate behaviours and encouraging the development of life-long learning.

Thank you Lori for being a wonderful “Shareosaurus” and sharing your story with us.

The Times Cheltenham Science Festival

Dinosaurs, DeLoreans, Deep Space and Debate

The Times Cheltenham Science Festival (June 2nd to June 7th 2015) returns with a line up bigger and better than ever, with over 165 different events scheduled, including talks from Professor Alice Roberts, Professor Brian Cox and Lord Robert Winston.  Joining a very eminent line up will be a number of leading scientists from the field of palaeontology, plus a seven metre long specimen of the fearsome tyrannosaurid Gorgosaurus.

Over the six days of the festival, visitors will be able to explore, engage with and be entertained by some of the greatest thinkers of our time, with everything from ground-breaking research to debates on the big science conundrums facing our species.  Cheltenham’s pop-up tented Science Village in the Imperial Gardens will be dominated by the Festival’s brand new “DinoZone”.  University of Manchester in a collaboration with the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research (South Dakota) will be highlighting their research on the Gorgosaurus specimen that they have been working on.  Distantly related to Tyrannosaurus rex, Gorgosaurus was a fearsome carnivore more than capable of feasting upon the remains of other tyrannosaurids that shared its Late Cretaceous habitat.

Recently, Everything Dinosaur team members wrote a short article which covered the research carried out on the fossilised skull and jaws of another Tyrannosaur (Daspletosaurus), by Dr. David Hone (School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, University of London) and Darren Tanke, an expert in vertebrate fossil preparation at the Royal Tyrrell Museum (Drumheller, Alberta, Canada).  The carcase of the Daspletosaurus was scavenged, the tell-tale postmortem feeding marks on the bones and teeth could have been a case of cannibalism, but it could also have been as a result of a hungry Gorgosaurus feasting.  The 7.4 metre long specimen of Gorgosaurus on display in the tented Science Village would have been more than capable of making a meal of the Daspletosaurus.

To read more about a potential case of a Gorgosaurus feeding on a tyrannosaurid: Tyrannosaurid Bite Marks on the Remains of Daspletosaurus

Phil Manning and Victoria Egerton (University of Manchester) will be on hand to discuss some of the latest research and they will be presenting a one hour lecture on Friday 5th June all about their various dinosaur activities and adventures.

Professor Phil Manning Next to the Beautiful Gorgosaurus Dinosaur Display

Gorgosaurus making a guest appearance.

Gorgosaurus making a guest appearance.

Picture Credit: University of Manchester

Everything Dinosaur team members had the pleasure of meeting up with Professor Manning and the University of Manchester team at the Royal Society (London) last summer.  The exhibit is extremely informative and the Dinosauria is one of the main themes of the Festival, where you can learn about mass extinctions, discover what dinosaurs really looked like (expect a few feathers to fly) and stare into the eye sockets of a Triceratops.

The other major themes include “Life”, “the Universe” and “Time Travel”, a DeLorean is even flying in to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the first of the “Back to the Future” films and the question “why don’t we have flying cars today?” will be explored.

To read more about The Times Cheltenham Science Festival: The Times Cheltenham Science Festival

The extremely talented Pete Larson, will also be attending.  ”Paleo Pete”, one of the world’s leading authorities on Tyrannosaurs, will be speaking at the EDF Energy arena on June 2nd (6.30pm to 7.30pm), his subject, “T. rex Appeal”, the story of “Sue” perhaps one of the most famous fossils ever found.

A Fantastic Communicator – Pete Larson

A fantastic and generous communicator.

A fantastic and generous communicator.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

American Pete Larson has had a most colourful career, he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of vertebrate fossils and is a wonderful communicator, always patient and prepared to answer questions from dinosaur fans, young and old.

Joining Professor Alice Roberts to explore what dinosaurs may have actually looked like, will be palaeontologist Professor Mike Benton (Bristol University) and the gifted palaeoartist Bob Nicholls,  whose job is to illustrate dinosaurs once the fossil evidence has been interpreted.  Historian Joe Cain will be on hand to guide the audience through nearly two hundred years of dinosaur research.

By the time The Festival comes around, the world premier of the eagerly awaited film “Jurassic World”, will be just ten days away.  As well as being an advisor on the entire “Jurassic Park” movie franchise, dinosaur expert Jack Horner, on whom the film character Dr. Alan Grant was partly based, will be talking about his own dinosaur discoveries as well as giving audiences a behind-the-scenes look at “Jurassic World”.

Guest Director, BAFTA award winning Steve Backshall, one of television’s most respected wildlife presenters commented:

“I’m really excited to be Guest Director; it’s a brilliant opportunity for me to share my passion for wildlife and explore everything from giant telescopes to dinosaurs.”

The full Festival line-up is at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival.

Tickets go on sale to Members on Wednesday, April 15 and to the general public on Wednesday, April 22 available at The Festival website or at 0844 880 8094.

Dinosaurs and Autism

World Autism Awareness Day

Today, April 2nd, is World Autism Awareness Day, the culmination of a week of activities and events organised to help raise awareness and support for those people who are on the autistic spectrum.  One of the themes is to show your support by turning things blue, the light it up blue (LIUB) campaign to commemorate the United Nations sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day.  Team members at Everything Dinosaur provide support for teachers who have responsibility for a child with autism in their class.  We also assist many parents, grandparents and guardians by providing free fact sheets, drawing materials and other resources to children on the autism spectrum.

Autism is a condition that affects an estimated 700,000 people in the United Kingdom.  People with autism share certain difficulties but each person may be affected in slightly different ways.  Many children we meet who are on the autistic spectrum, have a variety of issues related to understanding and processing information as well as, in a number of cases, accompanying learning difficulties.  We do our best to assist them and to help their carers and dedicated support providers.  Children on the autistic spectrum can obsess over certain things and one thing that they can get very obsessive over is dinosaurs.  Hence our support and help, as dinosaur experts we are in a good position to offer assistance, especially with so many dinosaur facts and figures at our fingertips.

In Honour of World Autism Awareness Day – Some Blue Dinosaurs

Commemorating World Autism Awareness Day

Commemorating World Autism Awareness Day

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We hope you like our LIUB dinosaurs.  Blue is a colour not often found in nature but there may well have been blue feathered dinosaurs.

To learn more about autism and other related conditions such as Asperger syndrome visit: The National Autistic Society

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