Category: Teaching

Celebrating Science with Blackpool School Children

Blackpool Celebrating Science Conference 2015

Another busy day yesterday as team members at Everything Dinosaur took part in the Blackpool Celebrating Science Conference (BCSC2015).  Schools from all over the Blackpool area attended the event which was held at Unity Academy, with the conference taking place in the Academy’s spacious hall and the various science activities organised in nearby classrooms.  Everything Dinosaur was located in Mr Goldie’s classroom, we are grateful to Mr Goldie and his class for letting us use their room for the four dinosaur themed workshops we conducted with Year 4 and Year 5 pupils over the morning.

“Tyrannosaurus Sue” took charge of our conference stand and organised a fossil hunting activity for the children.  She had a very busy day with lots and lots of enthusiastic young palaeontologists exploring the fossil trays looking for ammonites, belemnites, brachiopods, petrified wood and coral.

Preparing the Everything Dinosaur Stand at the Start of the Conference

Getting the stand and fossil hunting activity for the conference.

Getting the stand and fossil hunting activity ready for the conference.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We posted up some pictures of the fossils the children could find, they were really impressed with the shark teeth and loved looking at their fossil discoveries with the large magnifying glasses we provided.   We also included lots of information about Mary Anning, as one of the competitions on the day for the children was to collect as many names of famous scientists as they could.

In the meantime, in the classroom we had been looking at animals with backbones and exploring the vertebrae of dinosaurs.  In the second part of the workshop, Everything Dinosaur explained some of the aspects relating to new research into the Dinosauria.  Our well received workshop involved “Jurassic World” and breaking some bones, the activities and experiments delighted teachers and children alike.   We were very busy with the workshops and did not have a lot of time to organise feedback from the eight schools we were scheduled to work with.  However, we did get two teachers to provide some feedback on the workshops that we delivered.  It seems we got 5 out of 5 stars for our workshop.  This feedback is extremely helpful as the short lesson we provided was one that we had developed especially for the conference.

Feedback from Teachers after the Everything Dinosaur Workshop

5 stars for Everything Dinosaur.

5 stars for Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

More Feedback from Everything Dinosaur’s Workshop

Everything Dinosaur gets rave reviews for workshop.

Everything Dinosaur gets rave reviews for workshop.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

All to soon it was time to pack up, after all, we have to prepare for some more dinosaur themed workshops in schools.   Our thanks to Unity Academy for being such gracious hosts and for Cheryl Langley and Jane Walpole for organising the Blackpool Celebrating Science Conference.  We really appreciate the “tweeted” pictures of us as well.

Carbon Dioxoide Emissions Threaten Ocean Ecosystems

Marine Life Could Be Irreversibly Damaged

Increased carbon dioxide emissions will cause great damage to oceanic ecosystems that cannot be reversed warns an international team of scientists.  In a new paper, published in the academic journal “Science”, researchers, which include Dr. Carol Turley OBE, of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory state that unless CO2 emissions are curbed, the temperature of the oceans will continue to rise, oxygen levels will continue to fall and more seawater acidification will occur.  The scientists paint a very gloomy picture for the Earth’s oceans declaring that CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels was increasing the acidity of the oceans at a faster rate than at any time since the End Permian extinction event some 250 million years ago, that led to the greatest mass extinction known in the fossil record.  Something like 95% of all the life on Earth died out during this extinction event.

The researchers looked at a number of scenarios and models and the scientists stated that the two degree Celsius maximum temperature rise as agreed by governments is not enough to stave of the damaging effects of increased CO2.  In a very pessimistic outlook, the scientists claim that the range of options is decreasing and the cost of coping with the implications will rocket.   The team of twenty-two leading marine scientists report that politicians are not responding as quickly as they should to the approaching crisis.  The oceans of the world are at risk and more must be done to deal with the impact of global climate change.

The World’s Oceans are Under Threat

Increased CO2 emissions could spell disaster for the oceans.

Increased CO2 emissions could spell disaster for the oceans.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Nearly 30% of the carbon dioxide produced since 1750 has been absorbed by the ocean.  As CO2 is slightly acidic it is changing the chemistry of the water and making it more acidic.  This is disastrous for those organisms that use calcium or argonite to build shells or to construct colonies.

Dr. Turley stated:

The ocean is at the frontline of climate change with its physics and chemistry being altered at an unprecedented rate so much so that ecosystems and organisms are already changing and will continue to do so as we emit more CO2.  The ocean provides us with food, energy, minerals, drugs and half the oxygen in the atmosphere, and it regulates our climate and weather.  We are asking policy makers to recognise the potential consequences of these dramatic changes and raise the profile of the ocean in international talks where, up to now, it has barely got a mention.”

Recently, Everything Dinosaur reported on the research conducted by scientists at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, the University of California, Stanford University, Princeton University and the University of Florida that concluded that our planet was entering a sixth, global mass extinction phase.

To read more about this research: Study Suggests Sixth Mass Extinction Event in Earth’s History

Staff Make Dinosaur Day Extra Special

Children Enjoy a Dinosaur Day at Broadoak Primary School

The teaching team at Broadoak  Primary School in Ashton-under-Lyne went that “extra mile” when it came to organising a memorable dinosaur day for the children at Key Stage 2.  They not only booked Everything Dinosaur to conduct a series of dinosaur and fossil themed workshops with Year 3 through to Year 6, but they converted the gazebo in the spacious school playground into a “crime scene” containing a dinosaur’s nest.  It was great to see such an imaginative use of the facilities at the school and with a redevelopment and extension programme being planned for this larger than average primary school, we suspect that the new premises and facilities will be used to continue the inspiration teaching.

Staff at Broadoak Primary Convert the Gazebo into a Dinosaur Nest “Crime Scene”

Creative use of school resources.

Creative use of school resources.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

 Our dinosaur expert did his best to field all the questions from the children.  The experiments we conducted and the information we imparted went down very well with the pupils, who were all eager to learn more about prehistoric animals as well as demonstrating what they already knew by telling Everything Dinosaur about their favourite “terrible lizards”.

The Dinosaur Nest in the School Gazebo

A dinosaur discovery at a school.

A dinosaur discovery at a school.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To learn more about Everything Dinosaur’s work with schools: Contact Everything Dinosaur/Request a Quotation

The dinosaur workshops that we conducted went down very well with the teaching team as well, here is an example of some of the feedback we received:

“5 out of 5 stars”

“Very child friendly, loved the fact that everything was put into context for the children.”

“Lots of child participation and positive reinforcement.”

“Worked fantastically well with the children and kept them all engaged and wanting to learn more, the children enjoyed exploring all the artefacts and fossils.”

“All the staff involved would highly recommend this workshop.”

The teaching team at Broadoak Primary supported by the office staff and the site supervisors really went out of their way to make the dinosaur day extra special for the children.  Well done to everybody involved.

Year 1 Children Become “Dinosaur Detectives”

Dinosaur Detectives at St Joseph’s RC Primary

Year 1 at St Joseph’s RC Primary had the opportunity to become “dinosaur detectives” on Wednesday afternoon as a team member from Everything Dinosaur joined their class to conduct a dinosaur workshop in their school.  The afternoon session was split into two parts.  Firstly, the children joined our dinosaur expert in the hall for a tactile exploration of fossils and all things dinosaur.  One of the key learning objectives as outlined by Miss Stanton (class teacher), was to encourage the children with their writing and vocabulary development.  The focus was on thinking of adjectives to help describe the different dinosaurs and to express just how big some of them were.  The lesson plan we had prepared dove-tailed nicely into the scheme of work the children had been undertaking in the morning.  There were some wonderful examples of great use of adjectives to describe Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus rex in the children’s work books.

Dinosaurs Help Children Develop Their Vocabulary

Children gain confidence using adjectives.

Children gain confidence using adjectives.

Picture Credit: St Joseph’s RC Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

The children had lots of questions about dinosaurs, we were even asked about Pterosaurs, so once we returned to the office we were able to send over some images of flying reptiles to help the teaching team explain what these animals looked like.  In addition, we were asked “which dinosaur is best?”  What a super question!  Rather than have our dinosaur expert answer it, we challenged the class to hold their own “dinosaur beauty contest” and vote for their favourite.

We emailed over a set of six different dinosaur scale drawings and we put a special fact on each drawing about that specific prehistoric animal.  We then challenged Miss Stanton and her enthusiastic teaching assistant Mrs Sheikh, to get each child to pick their own personal favourite.  Could the children create a table to display the results?  What about making a line graph to show the voting preferences?

Microraptor – One of the Dinosaurs Chosen for the Classroom Vote

A great way to introduce things like tally counts and line graphs.

A great way to introduce things like tally counts and line graphs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The second part of the dinosaur workshop was located in the classroom.  We showed the children several fossil teeth and then we got them to measure various dinosaur footprints and to compare the size of dinosaur’s feet to their own hands.  Lots of measuring cubes were used in this exercise and the children added and subtracted to work out how many one centimetre cubes bigger/smaller their own hands were when compared to the footprints.

This is the first time that the teaching team responsible for Year 1 have introduced a dinosaur themed term topic.  The children were really enthusiastic and keen to learn about prehistoric animals.  As a topic it is proving flexible enough to fit in with the demands of the new curriculum.

To learn more about Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools: Contact Everything Dinosaur

A Colourful Dinosaur Theme “Wow” Wall

A colourful dinosaur themed display.

A colourful dinosaur themed display.

Picture Credit:  St Joseph’s RC Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

All to soon it was time to prepare for the end of the school day, but we did promise the children that when we got back to the Everything Dinosaur office we would email over additional teaching resources to help Miss Stanton, Mrs Sheikh and Year 1 to continue their “Dinosaur Detectives” topic.

Year 1 Go “Walking with Dinosaurs”

“Walking with Dinosaurs” with Year 1

Class One and Class Two (Year 1), at Thorpe Hesley Primary School (South Yorkshire), have been studying dinosaurs over the summer term and Everything Dinosaur were invited in to help enthuse pupils and teachers alike with the term topic entitled “Walking with Dinosaurs”.  The children had lots of questions about prehistoric animals and over the course of the two workshops, our dinosaur expert did his best to answer them all.  We had some super questions from the children and even the teachers asked a few questions.  For example, Mrs Oakley, the teacher of Class Two asked what colour were dinosaurs?

As part of the scheme of work prepared for this topic, the dedicated teaching staff had laid out a number of dinosaur themed workstations for the children.  There was part of the well-organised classroom dedicated to dinosaur art and the children were encouraged to have a go at drawing dinosaurs.  There were some lovely examples of the children’s drawings on display.

A Well Thought Out Workstation Encouraging Children to Draw

Well thought out dinosaur themed workstation

Well thought out dinosaur themed workstation

Picture Credit: Thorpe Hesley Primary/Everything Dinosaur

The workstation was well lit, and roomy.  All the resources were handy to help the children with their illustrations.  Mr Docherty, told us about a little boy who loved Megalodon “C. megalodon“,  was an extinct type of shark, that may have measured more than fifteen metres long.  The children looked at some super-sized shark fossils as we explored how fossils feel and thought of suitable adjectives for them.   In addition, amongst the prehistoric animal extension resources Everything Dinosaur emailed over to the school after our visit, we made sure to include a Megalodon fact sheet and scale drawing.

We also included a set of marine reptile drawing materials, as well as pictures of Ammonites so that the children could create their very own prehistoric seascape.

Dinosaurs Appeal to Kinaesthetic Learners

Lots of tactile handling of different materials.

Lots of tactile handling of different materials.

Picture Credit: Thorpe Hesley Primary/Everything Dinosaur

Extension Ideas and Activities

Our dinosaur expert explored herbivores and carnivores and we looked at dinosaur teeth.  Some of the children’s names are very similar to the names of prehistoric animals, this permitted us to send over some additional information on armoured dinosaurs such as Lexovisaurus and Scelidosaurus harrisonii.  Perhaps these additional extension resources sent over to Mrs Oakley and Miss Moran (Class One teacher), will inspire the budding young palaeontologists to have a go at designing their very own dinosaur.  If they do, we would want to see lots of labels on their model or drawing, an opportunity to utilise more adjectives.  As for the colours the children choose, the information we emailed over to Mrs Oakley in answer to her question about dinosaur colouration may help.  The children could also be encouraged to think about habitat and environment.  What colour might a plant-eating dinosaur living in a forest be?  What colour might a meat-eating dinosaur that lived in a desert be?  Can we introduce ideas like camouflage, perhaps looking at animals alive today to help inspire the classes?

For further information on Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools: Contact Everything Dinosaur

Sir Richard Owen

The pronunciation of prehistoric animals and all the terms that palaeontologists use can be a bit of a challenge.  Hopefully, the guide we gave Mrs Marshall (teaching assistant) will help.  Having met a young boy called Owen we explained that the word “dinosaur” was first coined by an Englishman (Richard Owen, later Sir Richard Owen).  We sent across some information all about this famous Victorian scientist, who recently had a blue plaque erected at his former school in Lancaster.  May be the children could create their very own blue plaque for Thorpe Hesley Primary, to celebrate studying “Walking with Dinosaurs”.

Blue Plaque Erected at the Former School of Sir Richard Owen

Sir Richard Owen honoured.

Sir Richard Owen honoured.

Picture Credit: LRGS

The Year 1 teaching team which also includes Mr Meares, Mrs Burns along with school visitor Mrs Hawkins even provided the children with some bones of animals to explore.  Our dinosaur expert enjoyed looking at the various skulls of farm animals that had been brought in.  We even recognised the T. rex soft toy that had been placed next to the cranial material (skulls and jaws).  We are not sure what a real Tyrannosaurus rex would have made of it all.

Year 1 Children Can Explore the Bones of Animals

Wonderful use of different materials to show different properties.

Wonderful use of different materials to show different properties.

Picture Credit: Thorpe Hesley Primary School

Early European Had Close Neanderthal Ancestor

Early Modern European Humans Interbred with Neanderthals

The very last of the Neanderthals may have died out some 28,000 years ago but their legacy lives on as the modern human genome (Homo sapiens) contains traces of Neanderthal genetic material.  The Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) are the closest related species to our own, we share a common ancestor but this fact alone does not account for the one to three percent contribution to the genome of Eurasians, scientists believe that some time in the recent past these two species interbred.  It seems that interbreeding between these two related species may have taken place much more recently than previously thought.  A new scientific paper published in the journal “Nature” reports on the study of an ancient human jawbone, this research suggests that interbreeding took place as recently as some 40,000 years ago.

The Ancient Human Jawbone Used in the Genetic Study

DNA analysis reveals very recent Neanderthal ancestor.

DNA analysis reveals a very recent Neanderthal ancestor.

Picture Credit: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology/Svante Pääbo

A robust human mandible was discovered in a cave system close to the town of Anina in south-western Romania back in 2002.  The cave contains a huge amount of mammal bones including large numbers of Cave Bears (Ursus spelaeus) which probably used one of the chambers in the cave system as a hibernation den.  The explorers found that a number of bones had been placed on nearby rocks, this suggested human activity and sure enough, the remains of early modern humans were found.  A beautifully preserved human jawbone (mandible) and part of a skull were discovered.  Radiocarbon dating estimates that the jawbone is around 37,800 years old, making these fossil materials the oldest modern human bones to have been found in Europe.  The cave, was called the “Peștera cu Oase”, which translates from the Romanian to mean “the cave of bones”.

Even if more conservative dating methods are used, the human remains come out at between 37,000 and 42,000 years old.  The jaw is definitely H. sapiens as it shows a number of modern human morphologies including a prominent chin.  However, a genetic analysis carried out by an international team of researchers which included scientists from Harvard Medical School, the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, indicates that between six to nine percent of this person’s genome originates from Neanderthals.  This is far greater than any other human sequenced to date.  As large segments of this individual’s chromosomes are Neanderthal in origin, it suggests that a Neanderthal was among this person’s most recent ancestors, perhaps just four to six generations back in this Romanian’s family tree.  This new study provides substantial evidence that the first modern humans that arrived in Europe interbred with local Neanderthals.

Put simply, the person whose jawbone was found in the cave may have had a Neanderthal great grandparent!

A Researcher Carefully Extracts Fragments of Bone for the DNA Analysis

For their analysis the researchers used 35 milligrams of bone powder from the jawbone.

For their analysis the researchers used 35 milligrams of bone powder from the jawbone.

Picture Credit: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology/Svante Pääbo

A previous study had suggested that early modern humans migrating out of Africa mixed with Neanderthals in the Middle East between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago.  Modern humans spread eastwards into Asia and westwards into Europe.  Eventually, it was our species that spread to all parts of the world, the last of the Neanderthals dying out around 28,000 years ago.

One of the lead authors of the report Qiaomei Fu (Chinese Academy of Sciences), stated:

“The data from the jawbone imply that humans mixed with Neanderthals not just in the Middle East but in Europe as well.”

Svante  Pääbo (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology), added:

“It is such a lucky and unexpected thing to get DNA from a human who was so closely related to a Neanderthal.”

The research team had to very carefully sift out all the contaminating DNA before being able to assess the presence of remnants of Neanderthal genetic material.  Most of the contamination was caused by microbial DNA in contact with the bone whilst it was in the cave, most of the hominin DNA recorded came from researchers who had handled the fossil bone.  Only a very tiny proportion of the genetic material analysed could be traced back to its Neanderthal origins.

The robust jaw and teeth do show some Neanderthal morphologies, this is to be expected given the close relatedness of this person to H. neanderthalensis.  The scientists hope to continue their studies and identify more Neanderthal genetic material from ancient human remains.  This will help them map potential Neanderthal/human interactions across Europe and Asia.

Dinosaur Day with Year 1

Abbey Hey Primary Academy and Dinosaurs

Another busy week with lots of dinosaur workshops with team members travelling to Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Lancashire.  There was just enough time to squeeze in a trip to Abbey Hey Primary Academy to meet all the budding young palaeontologists in Year 1.  The children in classes 1Wh, 1G and 1W have been studying dinosaurs and learning all about these amazing prehistoric creatures with the help of their enthusiastic teaching team.  Out in the playground our dinosaur expert spotted some wonderful dinosaur shaped chalk boards

Playground Jurassic Park

Fun and creative dinosaur themed playgrounds.

Fun and creative dinosaur themed playground accessories.

Picture Credit: Abbey Hey Primary Academy/Everything Dinosaur

With three classes to teach there was no time to lose, so it was straight into the Infants Hall to conduct the first dinosaur workshop with Miss Whitty’s class (1Wh) assisted by Miss Ahmed and Mr Jackson.  We were most impressed with the pictures that had been posted up onto Abbey Hey’s school website.  Clearly the children enjoyed themselves and they certainly had learned a lot.

Next it was onto class 1G, to visit the children in their classroom and to conduct a second dinosaur and fossil themed session.  Our dinosaur expert marvelled at the wonderful examples of dinosaur inspired writing he saw posted up around the classroom.  The children had focused on two dinosaurs, the armoured Stegosaurus and the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex, they had been working out what these dinosaurs were like and compiling a list of dinosaur facts on flip charts.

Stegosaurus and T. rex Inspired Facts 

Learning facts about dinosaurs.

Learning facts about dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Abbey Hey Primary Academy/Everything Dinosaur

Teacher, Miss Ellison explained that the pupils had been really engaged with this term topic and they had loved working out just how big some dinosaurs were.  Miss Russell and Miss Farrington took plenty of photographs during the dinosaur workshop, these would help in the planned recall and recount activity that the teaching team had prepared for the afternoon.  There was even a model of a big dinosaur egg in the classroom, this topic certainly seems to have captured the imagination of the teachers.

Year 1 Children Have Been Learning About Dinosaur Habitats

Year 1 explore dinosaur habitats.

Year 1 explore dinosaur habitats.

Picture Credit: Abbey Hey Primary Academy/Everything Dinosaur

A number of the classes had created their own dinosaur habitats, learning about what animals need to keep them healthy and happy.  Good job the children knew how to distinguish the carnivores from the herbivores.

In the afternoon, it was time to work with class 1W.  Miss Sarwar (the teacher), had briefed our dinosaur expert on exactly where the children were on the term topic, as a result we were able to help reinforce learning and check understanding as we explored prehistoric animals with the class.  Miss Heap and Miss Statham (teaching assistants) were on hand to help the enthusiastic children learn how Triceratops used its horns, how Ammonites caught fish and the special, secret powers of armoured dinosaurs.

A spokesperson for the school, commented on the school’s class pages:

Year 1 had a visit from a dinosaur expert [Everything Dinosaur].  They were shown dinosaur fossils dating back over 150 million years.  The children thoroughly enjoyed the day and they learnt some much more about dinosaurs.”

To learn more about Everything Dinosaur’s school visits and to download free dinosaur themed teaching resources: Dinosaurs in School

Study Suggests Sixth Mass Extinction Phase

Our Planet is Entering New Mass Extinction Phase

A team of international scientists based in the United States and Mexico have published a report declaring that a sixth mass extinction event is well under way and our species is running out of time to reverse this trend through conservation efforts.  Everything Dinosaur team members have written a number of articles on this blog about reports detailing the current rate of extinctions being recorded and the irreversible loss of ecosystems and biota.  This latest research takes a more conservative approach to calculating species loss than many earlier studies and this study focuses on the impact on vertebrates.  Even so, the team conclude that animals with back bones are becoming extinct more than 114 times faster than the “normal”, background extinction rate.

Scientists from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, (Mexico), the University of California, Stanford University, Princeton University and the University of Florida state that the Earth is entering the sixth great mass extinction event, some sixty-five million years after the fifth mass extinction which ended the reign of the dinosaurs.

Report States This is the Greatest Extinction Phase Since the Demise of the Dinosaurs

Cataclysmic impact event that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Cataclysmic impact event that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Don Davis commissioned by NASA

The fossil record suggests that there have been five major extinction events in the Phanerozoic Eon which represents the last 545 million years or so of our planet’s history.  The term Phanerozoic is derived from the Greek, for “visible life”, this reflects that the preserved fossilised remains of organisms become much more plentiful in rocks dated from 545 million years ago and younger.  Over this huge amount of time, there have always been extinctions.  Scientists are aware of the fact that there is a “background” level of extinction, but in this new research, the scientist report that amongst vertebrates the current trends suggest extinction rates 114 times faster than normal.

A Table Showing the Five Previous Mass Extinctions

Mass Extinction in Summary

Table Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Gerrado Ceballos, (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico), lead author of the paper, that has just been published in the academic journal “Science Advances” commented:

“We are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event.  If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover and our species itself would likely disappear early on.”

The report concludes that since 1900, more than four hundred species of vertebrates have died out.  Such a loss would normally occur over 10,000 years if extinction rates were at the normal, background level.  The rapid loss of biodiversity is put down to the effect of an increasing human population on our planet.   The number of humans living on our planet is estimated to have been around 1.9 billion in 1900, today, the human population is estimated to be around 7.325 billion, an increase of 385% over the last one hundred and fifteen years.  The expansion of urban populations, pollution, loss of habitats, deforestation and climate change are some of the reasons for the dramatically increasing loss of vertebrates according to the paper’s authors.

With the disappearance of key vertebrate species from an ecosystem, the other components such as insects and plant life will also be affected.   The report states that beneficial insects such as pollinating bees could be lost to humanity within three human generations.  The loss of these pollinators would have a huge impact on human food resources and place our own species Homo sapiens very much under threat.

To read an article written in 2014 about potential mass extinctions: Heading for a Sixth Mass Extinction?

The number of global mass extinction events preserved in the fossil record has been challenged recently.  Back in April of this year, Everything Dinosaur reported on a new study that suggested that there had been an additional, major extinction event around 260 million years ago in the Permian geological period.  This extinction phase preceded the End Permian extinction event that is believed to be the most devastating extinction known from the Phanerozoic.  Some 95% of all life is believed to have died out.

To find out more: A Sixth Mass Extinction Event?

Updating the Everything Dinosaur School Site

A Busy Teaching Schedule for the Summer Term

The relatively short summer term is in full swing and so are Everything Dinosaur’s teaching activities with team members undertaking a number of dinosaur and fossil workshops with children aged from 4 years up to Key Stage 3.  The Everything Dinosaur “Dinosaurs for Schools” web site, a bespoke on line presence for teachers and home educationalists, is constantly being updated with helpful posts and additional downloads of free to use dinosaur and fossil themed teaching resources.  With evolution and natural selection being incorporated into the English national curriculum, the demand for our experts is at an all time high, but team members remain determined to help all the teachers and education specialists that contact the company.

Planning and Preparing So That More Support Can Be Provided

Planning schemes of work to support teachers.

Planning schemes of work to support teachers.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Commenting on the company’s proposed teaching plans for the summer term a spokesperson for the Cheshire based organisation stated:

“We know how busy teachers are at the moment, there is so much to squeeze into this term and on top of this many senior leadership teams are well advanced with their schemes of work for 2016.  We too have put in place measures to help ensure that we can keep creating new downloadable teaching resources as well as posting up additional articles on our schools website to provide further support.  Rest assured, we shall keep working on this throughout this term and into the summer recess so educationalists can rely on us for useful, informative and helpful dinosaur and fossil themed teaching resources.”

To view the Everything Dinosaur schools web site: Dinosaur Workshops and Teaching Resources for Schools

In addition, the schools website will have a number of new features incorporated within it over the next two weeks.  New “quick links” will be included in the site to help teachers and learning practitioners navigate quicker to key areas such as being able to contact one of our dinosaur and fossil experts directly via email.  These improvements to this element of Everything Dinosaur’s on line presence are designed to provide an even speedier service to teachers, permitting questions about dinosaurs, requests for advice about lesson plans and so forth to be handled even quicker than before.

Everything Dinosaur must be doing something right when it comes to dinosaur workshops in schools.  Feedback from teachers and teaching assistants averages a very impressive 4.8 stars out of a maximum of 5 stars.

What is Oolitic Limestone?

Oolite (Egg Stone) Get up Close to Limestone

One of the joys of having Smartphones around the office is that these can be borrowed and taken out on fossil hunting expeditions.  Yes, they have all sorts of features, most of which we don’t use, but the camera has proved a boon. With twenty megapixels to play with team members have been able to take some lovely photographs of fossil discoveries and geological landscapes.  With this sort of imaging technology widely available there are more pictures of fossils being taken than ever before, but sometimes the rocks that contain the fossils can prove to be just as interesting, take oolitic limestone for example.

 A Photograph of Oolitic Limestone (Building Stone)

"egg stone" seen in a building.

“egg stone” seen in a building.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows Cotswold building stone (Middle Jurassic), limestone that was laid down in a marine environment and a number of small shelly fossils have been preserved along with natural casts of shells.  If you were to run your hand over this finely chiselled piece of building stone it would still feel quite rough, having the texture of coarse sand paper.  It is oolitic limestone, otherwise known as “egg stone” and close up the surface of the stone has a remarkable appearance.

A Close Up of the Limestone Material

Made up of tiny spherical shapes.

Made up of tiny spherical shapes.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The powerful digital camera on the Smartphone can pick up fine details such as the small, bubble-like appearance of the surface of the limestone.  These are the remnants of the ooliths (sometimes also called ooids) that make up the rock.  Grains of sand or fragments of seashell are rolled around the sea floor and as they do, they collect calcium carbonate (CaCO3).  Concentric layers are formed and these give the rock its characteristic “egg stone” appearance, as the surface of the rock looks like fish roe (fish eggs). Hence the term oolitic limestone.

Oolite (egg stone) is sedimentary rock and although most ooids are formed from the collection of calcium carbonate, this is not always the case as these structures can be composed of phosphate, dolomite or even chert.  The ancient Greek word for egg is  òoion and this might be the source of the derivations associated with this geologic structure.  In geology, sedimentary rock can be classified according to the composition of the rock as well as the diameter of the “egg stone” structures that are observed within it.  For example, oolites are technically defined as being composed of ooids that range in diameter between 0.25 mm to 2 mm.  Rocks composed of ooids of a larger than 2 mm diameter are called pisolites (made up of spherical shapes called pisoids).  The terms pisolite and pisoids come from the ancient Greek word for pea, so think of the size of the spherical shapes observed in the stone like a group of small peas.

Oolitic Limestone can be Full of Fossils

Fossil shell fragments in the oolitic limestone.

Fossil shell fragments in the oolitic limestone.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Ooids are normally formed in warm, shallow seas that contain a lot of calcium and other minerals dissolved within the seawater.  Intertidal movements or currents aid in the transport of the material which helps in the formation of the ooid structures, but oolitic material can also form in freshwater.  Fragments of shell or a sand grain can act as a “seed” giving the calcium carbonate a medium which it can form around.  As these tiny “seeds” tumble around the sea bed they accumulate layers of precipitated calcite (another term for calcium carbonate), the size of the ooid (or pisoid) formed indicates the length of time the object has been exposed to the sea water before being buried by further sediment deposition.  Therefore, pisoids, being larger than ooids have been present on the sea floor longer than ooids.  Oolites with their “egg stone” grains superficially resemble sandstone and they can be white, grey or even yellow in colour (such as Portland limestone).  Under a high powered magnifying glass (or within a 20 megapixel image), the concentric rings which form the ooids can be easily made out.

Oolitic limestones are popular building materials, for example Cotswold limestone (oolitic limestone), as they are hard, resist erosion and come in a variety of hues and colours.  As they have an even structure they can be cut or sculpted in any direction.  Take a look at some of the older, stone buildings in your town.  If you live in the UK, chances are that some of these building stones are oolitic limestone and if you have a powerful camera you can record surface details yourself and record the ooids.

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