Category: Educational Activities

Feedback from Foundation Class

Five Stars for Everything Dinosaur (sort of)

At Everything Dinosaur we encourage teachers to provide our team members with feedback over our visits to schools to teach about dinosaurs.  We conduct dinosaur and fossil workshops from children within the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stages) right up to students at Key Stage 4.  We are keen to develop our work in schools and museums and we are very grateful for all the feedback that we receive.  Whilst it would be great if teachers could leave feedback and comments on our dedicated teaching website, we do have a section dedicated to this, we do appreciate that sometimes teaching professionals find themselves so busy that this is not always possible.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s dedicated teaching website: Dinosaurs and Fossils Teaching Website

To help overcome this we always carry feedback forms with us when we visit schools, colleges and other institutions.  Being able to provide instant feedback is a great benefit to the teachers, teaching assistants and learning support team members that we work with.

Following our visit to Kensington Primary School to work with Foundation Stage children, we got lots of very positive feedback from the teaching team.  This feedback has already been posted up on our dedicated teaching website, but we thought it would be helpful if we posted up one of the forms from a class teacher here.

Foundation Stage Teacher Praises Everything Dinosaur

5 Stars for Everything Dinosaur.

5 Stars for Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Kensington Primary School

 We note that our “star rating” system was perhaps a little confusing but the comments are greatly appreciated.

The Foundation Stage teacher commented:

“Excellent resources and modelling of different vocabulary, especially focusing on opposites eg. hard/soft.  Children remained engaged throughout and loved touching the objects.  They were the focus of a lot of discussion throughout the rest of the day.”

Our dinosaur expert talked through a couple of extension activities with the teaching team and we look forward to hearing how the term topic develops.

Year 1 Explore Dinosaurs

Exploring Dinosaurs and Learning How to Eat Like a Diplodocus

Another busy day yesterday for Everything Dinosaur with a visit to Altrincham Preparatory School to work with Year 1.  The children, under the enthusiastic tutelage of their teachers Mrs Bacon and Mrs Eyley had been studying dinosaurs and fossils and a visit from our dinosaur expert helped to reinforce learning.  One of the pupils in the class heralds from Canada, so it was apt to explore the rib bones of an Edmontosaurus (named after the capital of the Canadian province of Alberta).  One of the children in 1E was born in Argentina, so we promised to send out some information on Argentinosaurus, a huge Titanosaur, as part of the extension resources.

The children had been busy writing about Diplodocus and our expert was able to see some of the excellent examples of hand-writing, vocabulary use and sentence construction that was on display.

Year 1 Pupils Write About Diplodocus

A "What I am" writing exercise with Diplodocus.

A “what I am?” writing exercise with Diplodocus.

Picture Credit: Altrincham Preparatory School/Everything Dinosaur

As part of the experiments we conducted, we showed how Sauropod dinosaurs like Diplodocus fed and then we looked at some fossilised plants and compared them to living ferns.

To read more about Everything Dinosaur’s school visit: Dinosaurs Prove to be a Roaring Success for Year 1

There was also some wonderful artwork on display in the classrooms of 1B and 1E, the children were keen to demonstrate their knowledge and one young dinosaur fan even brought in a model of a Baryonyx.

Piecing Together a Carnivorous Dinosaur

Meat-eating dinosaurs inspire artwork.

Meat-eating dinosaurs inspire artwork.

Picture Credit: Altrincham Preparatory School/Everything Dinosaur

The children and the teaching team really enjoyed the morning and it was great to see so many dinosaur themed examples of work posted up around the classrooms.  We even met one little boy called Owen, so we sent over some information on the anatomist Sir Richard Owen who was responsible for naming the group of animals we know as the Dinosauria.

To read more about Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools: Dinosaur Workshops for Schools

New Research Suggests Multicellular Life Started Earlier

Evidence Suggests Multicellular Life 60 Million Years Earlier than Previously Thought

Researchers from the Virginia Tech College of Science in collaboration with counterparts from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have published new data on one of the most fundamental and significant changes that occurred in the history of life on our planet.  At some time during the Proterozoic Eon, multicellular life forms evolved.  These organisms evolved from single-celled entities and in a paper published in the academic journal “Nature”, the researchers propose that multicellular life forms evolved some sixty million years earlier than previously thought.

The team suggest that they have found fossil evidence of complex multicellularity in strata dating from around 600 million years ago, although microscopic fossils are known in Precambrian strata from several locations around the world (Australia, South Africa as well as China), this new research is helping to clarify some long-standing interpretations of micro-fossils.

Professor of Geobiology at the Virginia Tech College of Science, Shuhai Xiao explained the significance of this new fossil discovery:

“This opens up a new door for us to shine some light on the timing and evolutionary steps that were taken by multicellular organisms that would eventually go on to dominate the Earth in a very visible way.  Fossils similar to the ones in this study have been interpreted previously as bacteria, single-cell eukaryotes, algae and transitional forms related to modern animals such as sponges, sea anemones, or bilaterally symmetrical animals.  This paper lets us put aside some of those interpretations.”

It has long been known that simple, multicellular organisms evolved before more complex ones, such as red algae and sponges.  If a biological hierarchy existed (and most scientists believe that this is the case), then at some point in the past, single-celled organisms began to evolve into much larger, more complicated multicellular organisms.  The trouble is, with the paucity of the fossil record and the difficulties involved in interpreting Ediacaran fauna there is a lot of debate amongst biologists and palaeontologists as to when the solo living cells began to fuse into more cohesive, complex forms.

Evidence of Complex Multicellular Organisms from the Doushantuo Formation

Evidence of multicellular structures in 600 million year old rocks.

Evidence of multicellular structures in 600 million year old rocks.

Picture Credit: Virginia Tech College of Science

The researchers examined microscopic samples of phosphorite rocks from the Doushantuo Formation in Guizhou Province (south, central China).  This formation represents extensive marine sediments that were deposited from around 635 million years ago to around 550 million years ago.  They preserve a unique record of microscopic life (Metazoan life – animals) that existed during the Ediacaran geological period, the period in Earth’s history defined as immediately before the Cambrian and that marks the end of the Precambrian or the Proterozoic Eon.

What is an Eukaryote?

The scientists were able to identify a number of three-dimensional multicellular fossils that show signs of cell-to-cell adhesion, cells potentially performing different functions and programmed cell death.  These qualities are all found in complex eukaryotes, the organisms that dominate visible life on Earth to day, the fungi, animals and plants.  Eukaryotes range in size from single-celled amoebas to giant sequoias and blue whales.  We (H. sapiens) belong to the Domain Eukarya.   Eukaryote cells are complex, they have a distinct nucleus surrounded by a membrane.  The nucleus contains most of the genetic material.  The nucleus itself is a specialised area of the cell, it is referred to as an organelle.  Eukaryote cells have a number of specialised areas within them (other organelles as well as a nucleus).

Professor Xiao and his colleagues admit that these are not the first multicellular fossils found, nor are they probably the oldest, but the exceptional preservation permits the researchers to draw certain conclusions.  For example, it had been previously thought that these multicellular characteristics had started to develop much later in Earth’s history, perhaps as recently as 545 million years ago, a time shortly before the great Cambrian explosion.

What was the Cambrian Explosion?

The Cambrian explosion refers to the period in Earth’s history around 545 to 542 million years ago when there was a sudden burst of evolution as recorded by extensive fossil discoveries.  A wide variety of organisms, especially those with hard, mineralised body parts first appear.

This new research may help to shed some light on when multicellularity arose, but the reasons for this significant change remain unclear.  The complex multicellularity shown in these Chinese fossils is not consistent with that seen in simpler forms such as bacteria.  The scientists note, that whilst some earlier theories can be disregarded these three-dimensional structures can be interpreted in many ways and more research is required to construct the complete life cycle of these ancient organisms.

In summary, these fossils may show some affinity towards the stem-groups that led to the first members of the Kingdoms we know as Animalia, Fungi and Plantae, but much more data is needed to establish a more thorough phylogenetic relationship.

Feedback after Working with EYFS (Reception)

A Tactile Dinosaur Themed Session Helping to Develop Vocabulary

Everything Dinosaur’s team members are busy with the teaching and other outreach commitments as the autumn term progresses.  Yesterday, Everything Dinosaur was working with a primary school in Merseyside, the aim being to help with the term topic (dinosaurs) by providing an interactive and tactile dinosaur and fossil themed workshop.

Could we answer the question of the day – Were some dinosaurs huge?

One of the objectives that was set in the short briefing with the teaching team prior to the first session was to focus on helping to develop vocabulary and to give the children the opportunity to develop a wider range of describing words.

Feedback form from Reception Teacher

Feedback from Primary School (EYFS).

Feedback from Primary School (EYFS).

Working with children, some of whom do not have English as a first language and who have only just started school, can be quite a challenge.  However, guided by their enthusiastic teachers the children had been undertaking all sorts of exciting exercises and activities to do with dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.  It seems from the feedback received that Everything Dinosaur had indeed, achieved the learning objectives.

We suggested a couple of extension activities as a follow up to some of the work undertaken in the actual dinosaur themed workshop and we look forward to hearing how the children fared as they explore all things dinosaur!

To learn more about Everything Dinosaur’s dinosaur themed workshops for reception classes: Teaching about dinosaurs in schools

Key Stage 1 Pupils Learn about Dinosaurs and Fossils

Primary School Pupils Explore the Dinosauria

Another busy day for Everything Dinosaur team members with a primary school visit.  Children at St. Joseph and St. Bede R. C. Primary had a great time exploring fossils and learning all animals and plants that lived in the past.  As part of our teaching work we looked at the work of a palaeontologist, examined the differences and the similarities between plants today and those preserved as fossils.  The pupils looked at plant-eaters and meat-eaters, well done to Tilly for knowing what a herbivore ate.

Our team member even met a student called Maia and we explained all about the dinosaur called Maiasaura (Good Mother Lizard).

To read more about the dinosaur called Maiasaura: Maiasaura – Mothers Day and Marsh

 The Teaching Team Prepared A Slide Show of the Activities

Slideshow credit: St. Joseph and St. Bede Primary School

 We did have some dinosaur eggs, but we are not sure where they have gone.  Could we have left them at the school?

Lots of extension activities have come out of the visit, we look forward to hearing more about how the school children have been learning to work scientifically.

For more information about Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools: Everything Dinosaur’s Work in Schools

Tropical North Wales – 300 Million Years Ago

Photographs of the Brymbo Steelworks Fossils

We were emailed today by the mum of one keen young palaeontologist who wanted to know all about Petrolacosaurus (pet-ro-lak-co-saw-rus).  Our team member explained that this primitive reptile was not a dinosaur, although it was very distantly related to them.  Petrolacosaurus lived at the very end of a geological period called the Carboniferous, at a little over forty centimetres in length, most of that tail, it was not the biggest reptile known from the fossil record – but its fossils are exceedingly important.  It looked like a lizard and it scurried through the extensive tropical forests that dominated the world at that time in Earth’s history.  By the early Permian, Petrolacosaurus was extinct, it remains one of the earliest reptiles known, part of a rapidly diverging group, that unlike amphibians evolved amniotic eggs.

One of the Earliest Reptiles – Petrolacosaurus (P.kansensis)

Petrolacosaurus kansensis

Petrolacosaurus kansensis

Picture Credit: BBC

Amniotic eggs have a semi-permeable shell that protects the embryo from drying out.  A tough, internal  membrane called the amnion surrounds the growing embryo as well as the yolk, the food source.  Development of the embryo in a shelled egg meant that for the first time in history, the Tetrapods were no longer tied to water to breed.  We as mammals are amniotes, along with the birds and reptiles.

The Amniote Egg – Great Breakthrough for the Tetrapods

The growing embryo is protected by a semi-permeable egg shell.

The growing embryo is protected by a semi-permeable egg shell.

Fossils of the rare and exotic Petrolacosaurus come from faraway Kansas, other primitive reptiles are known from a site in Nova Scotia (more about Nova Scotia later), but did you know that in an abandoned steelworks, just north of Wrexham (North Wales), a team of dedicated researchers and volunteers are busy preserving the fossilised remains of a Carboniferous habitat?

Important Fossil Discovery

It is not all that often that we get to talk about globally significant scientific sites virtually on our doorstep, but that’s exactly what the “fossil forest” preserved at an abandoned steelworks at Brymbo is and we are delighted to hear that plans are being considered to develop this location, perhaps leading to a visitor centre to explain all about the local industry and the fossils to be found nearby.  The Brymbo steelworks site preserves a forest and swamp environment from the Late Carboniferous, a time when the first reptiles scurried around hunting for insects and from time to time becoming prey themselves.  Top predators of the Late Carboniferous included spiders the size of dinner plates and three metre long amphibians.  Although, no reptile fossils have been discovered to date, this location is just one of a handful of such sites around the world and it is likely to significantly improve our understanding of the palaeoecology of the Late Carboniferous of Europe.

 Some of the Hundreds of Plant Fossils Collected at Brymbo

Ancient fossil uncovered at North Wales steel works.

Ancient fossil uncovered at North Wales steel works.

Picture Credit: Rachel Mason

The first fossils were discovered in 2005, when coal was being extracted from part of the Brymbo site. Everything Dinosaur team members wrote an article about the discoveries in 2009, when some of the fossil finds went on display to the public:

To read the article: Fossilised Plant Remains Go on Display

The forest that existed 300 million years ago in North Wales was part of an extensive ecosystem that stretched across Europe and North America.  The vast amount of peat that was formed as the plant remains became buried was, eventually, over time, turned into coal. This coal was to fuel the Industrial Revolution, so it could be argued that the 300 million-year-old forest gave rise to the steelworks.  The forest would not have looked like any modern-day forest environment.  Giant forty metre high Lycopsids (club mosses dominated), along with huge Sphenopsids (horsetails) called Calamites.  Nowhere else in Britain have Calamites fossils been found in such quantities.   Many other types of plant are known from this site, including the now extinct seed ferns (Pteridosperms) and the true fern Syndneia, which was previously known just from one site in Canada.

Giant Lycopsid fossils found

Giant Lycopsid fossils found

Picture Credit: Rachel Mason

Plants are very rarely preserved as whole fossils, but normally occur as isolated individual parts, such as leaves, stems, cones and roots.  As these different parts of plants are found separately in the fossil record, they tend to be given their own individual binomial name.  The roots system of Lycopsids such as the huge Lepidodendron, had a branching structure and these root systems are often preserved along with the Knorria (the name for the base of the trunk).  The term Lepidodendron, although used to describe the entire plant is actually the term that refers specifically to the upper part of the plant and its branches.

More Fossils from Brymbo (we suspect Stigmaria)

Preserved elements of the roots (we think) of a Lycopsid.

Preserved elements of the roots (we think) of a Lycopsid.

Picture Credit: Rachel Mason

Now Back to Nova Scotia

We mentioned earlier primitive reptile fossils from Nova Scotia.  Important information about life on Earth around 310 million-years-ago has been gained from studies of the coal deposits and the fossils they contain from Joggins in Nova Scotia.  The fossils in theses coal measures represent an ecosystem that is probably a few million years older than the one represented by Brymbo.  The Joggins site preserves numerous tree-sized stumps just as at Brymbo.  However, the fossilised remains of many different types of vertebrate (early Tetrapods) have been found inside the sediment associated with these hollowed out tree stumps.  It has been suggested that the hollow trunks of Lepidodendron plants became natural traps for many creatures, which has preserved evidence of the vertebrate fauna associated with these ancient forests and swamps.  No terrestrial vertebrate fossils have been found to date (as far as we know), from the Brymbo site, but importantly, Brymbo is a sheltered, inland location.  Yes, it has the vagaries of the Welsh weather to contend with, however, the Coal Measures at Joggins are on the coast and this site is subjected to much harsher weather, frequent cliff falls and significant amounts of erosion.

In terms of its importance to geology and palaeontology, the Brymbo site with its plant, invertebrate and trace fossils, may turn out to be one of the most important fossil sites in the whole of Europe.

Congratulations to the North-West Science Alliance

Certificate of Achievement for the North-West Science Alliance

Within the scientific community there are a great many hard-working, dedicated people who give up their free time to advance the general public’s understanding of science.  The North-West branch of the British Science Association is a typically vibrant team who work tirelessly to help inform, inspire and educate.

Amongst the many successes of this dedicated community that provides speakers, organises science festivals, SciBars (a science presentation in a pub), workshops and other hands-on events, there is the North-West Science Alliance (NWSA). This long-standing organisation has acted as a facilitator bringing together the public, science industries, schools, colleges and universities and fosters co-operation between these diverse bodies.

Lorelly Wilson, as Chairperson of the NWSA and the Chair/Secretary of the North-West branch of the British Science Association has done more than most to advance the general public’s understanding of science and to promote careers in science to students.  Her work was recognised when the NWSA was nominated for an award as part of Adult Learners’ Week organised by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE).  Yesterday evening, a team member of Everything Dinosaur was asked to present a Certificate of Achievement to Lorelly in recognition of her hard work.

Certificate of Achievement to the North-West Science Alliance

Lorelly Wilson accepts award.

Lorelly Wilson accepts award.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

One of the great things about our work is that we get to meet some amazing and talented people.  We were delighted to be able to present this award, the North-West Science Alliance had some stiff competition, more than fifteen hundred nominations were put forward and we at Everything Dinosaur were very pleased to hear of their success and to celebrate this achievement with them.

School Site Updates

Everything Dinosaur’s School Site Updates

Busy days at Everything Dinosaur, not only are team members starting the first of the autumn term’s teaching assignments this morning, but there are further updates being added to the company’s bespoke teaching website.  Everything Dinosaur provides a lot of educational resources and support to schools, home educators, teaching assistants and museums.  The teaching website was set up so as to provide a dedicated support site about dinosaurs and fossils to assist those involved in education.

Teaching tips, articles, resources and free downloads.

Teaching tips, articles, resources and free downloads.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Amongst the free downloads, teaching plans, schemes of work and other resources, Everything Dinosaur team members have been busy writing bespoke articles about how dinosaurs and fossils can help in education on the site’s teaching blog.  Trouble is, we have hundreds of articles and even more ideas for new articles so this task is monumental.  Still we shall persevere and new articles are being posted up all the time.

To visit Everything Dinosaur’s dedicated teaching site: Dinosaur and Fossil Themed Resources for Schools

Everything Dinosaur’s New School Site Goes from Strength to Strength

Teachers Getting Access to Free Downloads

The new school website from Everything Dinosaur has only been “live” for a little over a week but already teachers and learning support providers from as far away as Australia and California have been taking the opportunity to download the free teaching resources.  With the new curriculum being rolled out in England, there is a strong emphasis on “working scientifically” and our trained teachers and academics have been enthusiastically offering support and teaching advice.

New Schools and Educational Website From Everything Dinosaur

Teaching tips, articles, resources and free downloads.

Teaching tips, articles, resources and free downloads.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In the science curriculum, rocks and fossils are an integral part of Key Stage 2 and dinosaurs make a fantastic term topic subject for Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and Reception.  Everything Dinosaur’s school visits start in earnest next week, but our teaching team hope to post up some more, free dinosaur and fossil themed teaching resources before the teaching schedule and dinosaur workshops get into full swing.

A spokes person for Everything Dinosaur commented:

“We have been very pleased with the take up, lots and lots of free dinosaur and fossil themed teaching resources have already been downloaded by teachers, teaching assistants and home educators.”

To visit Everything Dinosaur’s teaching website, a website aimed at helping teachers and other educationalists with the delivery of Earth science based teaching schemes and lesson plans: Everything Dinosaur School Site

New School Curriculum With Rocks, Fossils and Dinosaurs

New Curriculum – New Challenges For Teaching Teams

This week sees the introduction of the new national curriculum for school children in England.  A more “rigorous” curriculum with English, Mathematics and Science as core subjects with pupils at Key Stage 1 (five to seven years old) being introduced to simple fractions and even computer programming.  The aim of this new curriculum which is being rolled out across all state-funded primary and secondary schools, is to improve standards.  However, academies, which now form the majority of secondary schools, will not be required to follow the new curriculum.  State funded schools in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are managed differently but current policies and practices are being reviewed in many parts of the British Isles.

Why the Changes?

The Department for Education, responsible for children’s’ services and education in England, cites falling academic standards when students in England are compared to students from other countries, particular countries such as Singapore, South Korea and China.  From Everything Dinosaur’s perspective, our teaching work aims to help promote the concept of working scientifically and we deal with classes ranging from EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) right up to Key Stage 4 (students from fourteen to sixteen years).  A number of comparative studies have been undertaken and just like schools themselves, the results vary.  For example, back in 2012 Everything Dinosaur team members reported on the biannual comparative study carried out by researchers at Boston College (USA), which covers the results from two very important international teaching studies, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and the trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).  Broadly, the United Kingdom had shown good progress when it came to mathematics but standards seemed to be slipping when it came to the sciences.

Teaching about Dinosaurs and Fossils in School – Working Scientifically

Lots of facts about dinosaurs.

Lots of facts about dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A topic all about dinosaurs, fossils and extinction helps to bring together core teaching subjects such as science, English and mathematics.

To read more about the study: Mixed Results for Science and Maths in English Schools

 Where does Everything Dinosaur Come In?

With the emphasis on scientific knowledge, conceptual understanding and learning about scientific methods, dinosaurs as a term topic or part of a special science themed teaching week is a great way to engage young minds at Key Stage 1 and earlier.  As children tend to have a fascination with prehistoric animals, our dinosaur workshops help to introduce and reinforce learning objectives as outlined by the new curriculum.  Lower Key Stage 2 have to learn about fossils, how they are formed and what they tell us about the once living things that they represent.   As one of our colleagues declared “Mary Anning is on the curriculum” – great to see a female role model in science.

Older students  in Key Stage 3 and heading up to Key Stage 4 are being given the opportunity to study genetics, evolution and the work of such notable scientists as Darwin and Wallace.

Teachers and their support providers have been working hard to get to grips with this new “rigorous” curriculum.  We are aware that some of the teaching resources related to dinosaurs and fossils used in the past are in some cases out of date, or worse still inaccurate. Everything Dinosaur offers lots of free, downloadable prehistoric animal themed teaching resources from its bespoke teaching website, as well as helpful articles, tips, advice and the opportunity to invite our dinosaur experts into school.

To visit Everything Dinosaur’s teaching website: Everything Dinosaur’s Website For Schools

A Teaching Exercise – Our Hands versus the Hands of a Dinosaur

Examining Dinosaur Hands (Key Stage 2/3)

Examining Dinosaur Hands (Key Stage 2/3)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In terms of teaching resources, Everything Dinosaur team members have been advising learning support providers about all sorts of prehistoric animal related merchandise – from finger puppets to science kits.  All the resources we supply have been tested and reviewed by our own teaching team, there’s even free dinosaur fact sheets included as well.

Resources for schools: Teaching Resources for Schools

Here’s to that dedicated group of professionals who serve our school children so well and we wish all the students starting the new curriculum every success with their studies.

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