Category: Teaching

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.

Lottie the Fossil Hunter

Everything Dinosaur Supports Women In Science

With our school visits to deliver dinosaur and fossil themed workshops, Everything Dinosaur team members are heavily involved in helping to promote geology/palaeontology and careers in science to young people.  We are very aware of the need to promote science to both girls and boys and as we visit a large number of schools we recognise that our team members can make an important contribution.  It’s not just our school visits, we supply lots of helpful teaching resources to teachers and home educationalists and provide advice on all sorts of Earth science related subjects from “Anning to Zuniceratops” as our boss, known as “Tyrannosaurus Sue” likes to say.  This week alone, we have provided free lesson plan advice to a Year 6 teacher as they prepare to teach evolution as a term topic, supported a Key Stage 2 teaching team with their fossils and rocks scheme of work and answered questions from school leavers about the potential roles and vocations within the umbrella of palaeontology.  Fact sheets on Smilodon fatalis and Allosaurus fragilis have been emailed to India and we have supplied Ammonite models to help a geologist explain about life in Jurassic marine environments – all this and it is still only Monday.

Dinosaurs and Fossils are Not Just for the Boys!

Encouraging women into the Earth Sciences!

Encouraging women into the Earth Sciences!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We have been so lucky to have met and worked with some amazing women scientists. That’s why Everything Dinosaur is delighted to introduce “Lottie the fossil hunter doll” into our extensive product range.

Say Hello to “Lottie the Fossil Hunter”

Lottie the Fossil Hunter

Lottie the Fossil Hunter

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We first met Lottie quite a few months ago when she was very much at the prototype stage.  We applaud the efforts of those women behind the TrowelBlazers, celebrating the role of women in archaeology, geology and palaeontology who have done amazing work in the past, continue to do so today and will no doubt be at the cutting edge of the Earth Sciences in the future.  Our boss Sue, (volcanism is her thing), only wishes that Lottie had been around when she was growing up.

To view Lottie the fossil hunter and other educational themed items: Learning All About Dinosaurs and Fossils

Sue commented:

“There have been some wonderful women who have been pioneers in the development of palaeontology and geology and we are all keen to help encourage girls into science careers.  Sadly, in some quarters those Georgian/early Victorian  attitudes that dogged Mary Anning can still be found, but we are doing all we can to stress that dinosaurs and fossils are not just for boys.”

As if to affirm Sue’s comments, we received a letter from Shantel in Year 2 after a dinosaur workshop with her class.  Shantel was delighted that we came to her school as she was “very excited because we love dinosaurs”.

Shantel’s Thank You Letter (Year 2)

Encouraging girls to learn about fossils and life in the past.

Encouraging girls to learn about fossils and life in the past.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Southglade Primary School

Great writing Shantel and thank you for your kind words, we know that Lottie the fossil hunter will be very impressed.

Lottie The Fossil Hunter – Girls Rock!

Girls definitely rock!

Girls definitely rock!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Woolly Mammoth Genes Inserted into Asian Elephant Skin Cells

Potentially One Step Closer to Woolly Mammoth Resurrection

Researchers at Harvard Medical School led by genetics professor George Church have combined laboratory grown elephant cells with genetic material retrieved from the frozen remains of Siberian Woolly Mammoths.  The genetic material, a total of fourteen genes, was spliced into the skin cells of an Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), the closest living relative to the extinct Woolly Mammoth.  The results are promising with the altered skin cells functioning properly in their petri dish environment, but the scientists stress that cloning a viable Woolly Mammoth is still a very long way off.

Investigating the Possibility of a Return for the Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius)

Will the Woolly Mammoth return?

Will the Woolly Mammoth return?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

 Scientists from Harvard Medical School are working on a number of genetic projects, including research into the Woolly Mammoth genome.  They are however, competing against a number of other institutes including South Korea’s Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in a bid to extract viable DNA from a long dead animal with a view of investigating the possibility of cloning.

The ancient genetic material was inserted into the cells using a complicated cut and splicing technique, an analogy would be to think of a film editor cutting and stitching snippets of film together so as to make a coherent movie.  The system used was CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat).  Although this work has yet to be peer reviewed and no paper has been published describing the research in detail, preliminary findings suggest that the mutated cells are functioning normally.  If this is the case, then this is the first time that Woolly Mammoth genetic material has functioned since the very last of these Ice Age creatures became extinct the best part of 4,000 years ago.  Having a established a thorough understanding of the Mammoth genome, the team focused on identifying and then adding to the elephant skin cells those genes which are responsible for the Mammoth’s adaptations to a cold climate, genes such as those for small ears, long body hair and thick layers of subcutaneous fat.

Professor Church pointed out that they were a long way off from “Mammoth de-extinction”, despite some remarkable finds in recent years, including one amazingly well-preserved female Woolly Mammoth carcase, nick-named Buttercup, that was the subject of a number of cloning documentaries that aired recently.

To read more about the Woolly Mammoth called “Buttercup”: To Clone or Not to Clone a Woolly Mammoth

The genetics laboratory is the largest research facility at Harvard University and the researchers have been responsible for a number of important genome studies in recent years.  Much of the team’s work involves studying the human genome as well as working on how to manipulate the genes of mosquitoes to help fight the spread of malaria and other diseases such as dengue fever.

Professor Church commenting on their success with the combining of elephant cells and Woolly Mammoth genes stated:

“We won’t be seeing Woolly Mammoths prancing around any time soon, because there is more work to do.  But we plan to do so.”

Splicing the DNA into the skin cells of Asian elephants is only the first step in, what will be a very long process.  The next hurdle is to find a way of turning the hybrid cells into specialised tissues, to see if they produce the correct traits and characteristics.  For example, will the genes for small ears, actually produce ears that are small and able to lose less heat.  With animal rights groups preventing the use of elephants as surrogate mothers, hybrid cells will have to be adapt to being grown in an artificial womb.  If a viable embryo is created, then it is a case of being able to bring that embryo to term and to produce a viable offspring.

Preserved Remains Like This are  Providing Woolly Mammoth Genetic Material

Mammoth steaks anyone?

Mammoth steaks anyone?

Picture Credit: Semyon Grigoriev/Mammoth Museum

If all this goes to plan and cold-adapted, hybrid elephants are produced then more and more Mammoth DNA can be introduced into subsequent generations to drive out the Asian elephant traits.  The Harvard team hope to genetically engineer an elephant that can survive in inhospitable, sparsely populated habitats, where such creatures would face fewer threats from humans.  A long term aim would be to develop herds of Woolly Mammoths, once more roaming the steppes of the northern hemisphere.

Team members at Everything Dinosaur wait to read more about this research and to see the peer reviewed comments, although we have made a wager that by 2045, a viable Woolly Mammoth will be produced somewhere in the world.  Just thirty years to go then.

Year 2 Send Thank You Letters to Everything Dinosaur

Schoolchildren Say Thanks after Dinosaur Workshop

Earlier this month, a team member from Everything Dinosaur visited Southglade Primary School to deliver a dinosaur workshop in support of Year two’s study topic all about dinosaurs.  As part of our follow up support for the teaching team, we discussed extension ideas and emailed over further resources to assist the enthusiastic teachers with their scheme of work.

One of the things discussed was to encourage the children with their writing by asking them to write a thank you letter to Everything Dinosaur.  Sure enough, a couple of days ago we received a big envelope  from Mrs Hyland containing a super set of letters.  We have enjoyed reading them all and we have posted them up onto a notice board in our warehouse.

What a Lot of Thank You Letters we Received!

Year 2 pupils send in thank you letters to Everything Dinosaur.

Year 2 pupils send in thank you letters to Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Southglade Primary School

 The children had taken great care in how they laid out their letters.  There was lots of proper addressing on display, some super, clear writing as well as effective use of punctuation.  Many of the children had incorporated some amazing vocabulary as well, words like “appreciate” and “sincerely” occasionally trip us up, so to see them used in a letter from a seven year old and spelled correctly too was fantastic!

Lots of Fantastic Letters to Read

Thank you note from Alina.

Thank you note from Alina.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Alina

Dinosaur Mike who visited the school to conduct the dinosaur and fossil themed workshop exclaimed:

“We had so many letters from the children that we had to find a big space in our warehouse to lay them all out so we could take a photograph.  My colleagues and I really enjoyed reading them and I was delighted to see just how many facts that Year 2 had remembered.”

Keira, Aiden, Ella, Amr, Joy and Theo liked looking at the fossil teeth best, whilst Jude, Alex, Grace and Ewan enjoyed learning all about Triceratops.  For Tyler and Lexi-Mai they were delighted to hear all about Tylosaurus and Lexivosaurus, prehistoric animals that have names that are like their own.

Dinosaur Themed Thank You Letter

A thank you letter from Year 2.

A thank you letter from Year 2.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Aimee

Jayden, the other little boy called Theo, Milly, Kai and Demi-Lea all wanted to know whether Everything Dinosaur will be coming back to their school to teach about dinosaurs and fossils.

Young Aimee wrote:

“Thank you for travelling to our school from a long way away today.  I was excited because we all love dinosaurs.  The fossils that we touched all felt cold and hard and I liked moving around making gigantic steps just like a dinosaur.”

Ezekiel, Gracie-Jai, Amira and  Shantel asked how our dinosaur expert came to know so much about dinosaurs?  That’s easy, he had a really enthusiastic teacher at school just like the children in Year 2.

Heasandford Primary School Year 1 – Dinosaurs

Lower Key Stage 1 Study Dinosaurs

Year 1 children at Heasandford Primary school in Lancashire have been studying dinosaurs this term and all three classrooms had lots of dinosaur themed displays.  Everything Dinosaur was invited into the school to conduct a series of dinosaur and prehistoric animal workshops with the three classes of Year 1 pupils.  One of the first things seen as we discussed the intended teaching outcomes for the day, was a clever display posted up in one of the classrooms that showed the differences between fiction and non-fiction texts.

Learning All About Different Types of Books

Helping to learn the difference between fiction and non-fiction texts

Helping to learn the difference between fiction and non-fiction texts

Picture Credit: Heasandford Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

Using dinosaurs as a template to help the children to learn about different types of books is very clever.  During the course of the term topic, the Year 1 children were given plenty of opportunities to undertake creative writing.  In addition, the children were challenged to produce their own fact books based on their favourite dinosaurs.  Our dinosaur expert spent some time over lunch looking at one of these dinosaur fact books that had been produced.  Allosaurus seems to have been this budding young palaeontologist’s favourite dinosaur, there was even a model of Allosaurus made from green tissue included in the book, along with lots of prehistoric animal facts and dinosaur drawings.  With the aid of one of the enthusiastic teaching assistants, some children had even taken photographs of fossils.  We compared these pictures with some photographs of fossils in a magazine that we just happened to have with us.

Children Produce Non-Fiction Texts All About Dinosaurs

Colourful books all about dinosaurs demonstrate lots of independent learning.

Colourful books all about dinosaurs demonstrate lots of independent learning.

Picture Credit: Heasandford Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

Some of the children had even brought dinosaur toys to show our expert.  Some of these proved to be just the job when it came to explaining about different types of dinosaur such as Apatosaurus and Triceratops.  This Burnley based school is one of the largest primary schools in England.  There are twenty-one classes at the moment, and the size and scale of the school enables it to be at the very heart of the local community.  With each Year group being made up of three classes, this sets the dedicated teaching team some challenges but there was plenty of evidence to demonstrate that despite the large numbers of children at the school, there was a really strong cohesion between all the classes.  The teaching teams and their learning support providers co-ordinate schemes of work to ensure that every pupil has the opportunity to learn in a safe, stimulating and enthusiastic environment.  For example, all three classes had produced some wonderful silhouette paintings of different prehistoric animals as the children explored different types of media.  These paintings made very colourful displays.

Colourful Paintings on Display

Effective use of different media.

Effective use of different media.

Picture Credit: Heasandford Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

One of the benefits of having an expert from Everything Dinosaur visit, is that there is an opportunity to discuss extension activities to help support learning.  Whilst one class was outside busy calculating the length of a Stegosaurus, we took the chance to explore one of the dinosaur museums that the children had created in the classrooms.  There was lots of evidence on display of the varied and stimulating activities that the children had been undertaking.

One of the Dinosaur Museums in a Classroom

Year 1 classes create their own dinosaur museums.

Year 1 classes create their own dinosaur museums.

Picture Credit: Heasandford Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

As part of our follow up work with the school we emailed over some further information on the prehistoric animals that the children had learned about over the course of the day.  We even set them one or two of our special “pinkie palaeontologist challenges”, one of which included comparing Tyrannosaurus rex teeth to bananas, a great way to support the numeracy elements of the teaching scheme of work.  Could the children produce a table of their results?  Could they create a graph and plot the data?

Dinosaurs Roam at John Locke Academy

EYFS Children Learn All About Dinosaurs at John Locke Academy

It has been a busy and exciting term for the children at John Locke Academy.  Early Years Foundation Stage have been learning all about dinosaurs with the help and support of the enthusiastic teaching team at this new school, which was only opened last September.  The Spring Term topic was entitled “Stomp, Stomp, Roar” and there were some very colourful displays of the children’s work posted up in the spacious classrooms.  A Reception class had even set up their very own dinosaur museum and the fossil expert from Everything Dinosaur who visited the school to conduct Foundation Stage dinosaur workshops, was lucky enough to be given a guided tour.

Visit our Dinosaur Museum (Reception Class)

Come visit our dinosaur museum

Come visit our dinosaur museum

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/John Locke Academy

The children’s interest in all things prehistoric had been sparked by the discovery of some strange and very large eggs. What sort of creature could have laid eggs so big?  This was one of the questions posed by the teachers, all part of an exciting, learning through play focused curriculum which is currently being rolled out across the Foundation Stage (Nursery and Reception).  Using the giant eggs as a stimulus, the teaching team encouraged the children to explore what sort of animals alive today lay eggs and to make links between the size of the eggs and the size of the animal that could have laid them.  Could a dinosaur have visited their school?

“Egg-citing” Discovery Made in the Classroom

Dinosaur eggs made from a balloon covered in paper mache.

Dinosaur eggs made from a balloon covered in paper mache.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/John Locke Academy

Dinosaurs as a term topic had certainly enthused teachers and children alike.  Prehistoric animals such as Stegosaurus, Triceratops and the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex are rarely out of the media spotlight these days, as our dinosaur expert pointed out when he explained that a new dinosaur species is, on average, named and described every thirty days or so.  The children demonstrated a remarkable level of knowledge, some of the Nursery class knew about geological periods and which dinosaurs lived in them.  In addition, the children were keen to point out which dinosaurs ate meat and which ones ate plants.

With all the wonderful examples of writing the children had produced, they needed somewhere to display them all, so one part of the dinosaur museum had been set aside as an area for showcasing all the books about prehistoric animals that the children had written.

Dinosaur Books Written by FS2 On Display

"Stomp, stomp, roar"!  Reception class make books about dinosaurs.

“Stomp, stomp, roar”! Reception class make books about dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/John Locke Academy

The nursery children too, had created some wonderful and very informative dinosaur themed displays, all good examples of learning through imaginative, creative play.   If you are going to have a dinosaur museum in the classroom, then just like any other museum it might be a good idea to have a set of “Golden Rules” for visitors to follow.  The children were so engrossed in the idea of their very own classroom museum that they had drafted a set of rules to help guide visitors. This certainly demonstrates the children’s ability to apply what they had been learning to an appreciation of the wider world.

“Golden Rules” Designed for the Classroom Dinosaur Museum

Children design rules for their dinosaur museum.

Children design rules for their dinosaur museum.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/John Locke Academy

The concept of learning through exploring, developing ideas and allowing the children the freedom to challenge themselves is certainly a philosophy that John Locke himself, would have approved of.  There was lots of evidence on display demonstrating that this new school is certainly meeting learning needs, allowing the children the opportunity to fulfil their potential in a rich, diverse environment with plenty of support.

As part of the topic, the children in the two Reception classes have been working on a number of writing exercises, all aimed at helping them to develop their competence and to expand their vocabularies.  The visitor from Everything Dinosaur was presented with a large number of  questions that the children had written in preparation for the dinosaur workshop.  There were so many excellent examples that our expert had to use part of the school hall to lay them out so they could be photographed.

Dinosaur Topic Aims to Develop Writing Skills

Encouraging FS2 to write about dinosaurs.

Encouraging FS2 to write about dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/John Locke Academy

All in all, the topic entitled “Stomp, Stomp, Roar”, has been a “roaring success”, for the Academy.  A topic that has been enthusiastically embraced by children and teachers alike.  The children certainly enjoyed the Foundation Stage dinosaur workshops.

International Women’s Day 2015

Recognising the Role of Women in Science and Education

Today, March 8th is International Women’s Day.  A day for celebrating the role of women in society and for championing the continuing struggle for equality.  Although, the origins of this special day go back to pre World War One, the fight to recognise the role of women in society continues and we at Everything Dinosaur, with our female boss, take time out to recognise the immense contribution of women to the Earth Sciences and science teaching.  Our team members have been lucky enough to have worked with some of the most enthusiastic and engaging science teachers in the country.  This dedicated group, many of which, at the Primary School level at least are women, are tasked with enthusing and motivating the next generation of scientists.

Take for example, Miss Sparre, a Primary School teacher we met last week.  As part of her mixed Year 1/FS2 classes’s study of dinosaurs they had turned part of the classroom into a dinosaur museum.  The children were eager to show off their museum to our fossil expert who had come to the school to conduct a dinosaur workshop.

A Science Museum in the Classroom

Come to our dinosaur museum!

Come to our dinosaur museum!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Young Megan, (aged five), had been to the “Jurassic Coast” of Dorset and found lots of amazing Ammonite and Belemnite fossils, she was delighted to be able to explain what the fossils mean and we presented her with a drawing of what an Ammonite looked like when it swam in the Mesozoic seas.  The contribution to science and education by women has been immense and with enthusiastic young Megan explaining that she too, wants to be a palaeontologist, the important role of women in science is set to continue.

A Trip to the Bathonian

The Bathonian Stage of the Middle Jurassic

Just like a book is divided up into chapters so geological time is divided up into a series of units.  There are Eons, Eras, Periods, Epochs, and faunal stages, these are the typical units of division when it comes to exploring the geological timescale.  A point reinforced when a team member from Everything Dinosaur made a visit to Somerset recently.

Descending order of size for the units of the geological timescale (deep time):

  • Eon for example, the Phanerozoic (visible life) from 542 mya to the present day.
  • Era for example, the Mesozoic, from 251 mya to 65 mya) or thereabouts.
  • Period, for example, the Jurassic (199 mya to 145 mya) approximately.
  • Epochs, for example, the Middle Jurassic (175 mya -161 mya) approximately.
  • Stages or Ages such as the Bathonian (167.7 mya to 164.7 mya) approximately.

We mention this, as whilst working with Year 6 children and their teachers in the Bath area, we explained that the limestone rocks in their part of the world, were used as building materials and have been quarried for centuries.  Many of the buildings around the school, and the walls of the school were constructed using these limestones.  These limestones are the preserved remains of the shells of ancient sea creatures, that lived during the Jurassic.  The Bathonian faunal stage was named after the spa town of Bath and the limestone found in this part of south-western England.  It was included in scientific literature as early as 1843.  A number of Ammonite species are recognised from this Middle Jurassic strata and they help to provide a biostratigraphic profile and assist with relative ageing of the rocks.  Bathonian rocks have provided a number of dinosaur fossil remains including Sauropods, armoured dinosaurs, meat-eaters and even a distant relative of the most famous dinosaur of all Tyrannosaurus rex (Proceratosaurus).

Typical Bathonian Limestones used as Local Building Materials

A faunal stage of the Middle Jurassic named after the spa town of Bath.

A faunal stage of the Middle Jurassic named after the spa town of Bath.

It was a nice moment to ask the school children did they want to see something from the Jurassic?  When they all said yes, we simply asked them to look out of the window.

EYFS at Purston Infant School Learn All About Dinosaurs

Foundation Unit Studies Dinosaurs

It was an exciting Friday for the children at the Foundation Unit at Purston Infant School (West Yorkshire) as yesterday, they had a visit from Everything Dinosaur to help them learn all about dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.  The two classes of Lower Foundation Stage along with the two classes of Upper Foundation Stage have been learning about dinosaurs and there was lots of colourful artwork on display around the classrooms.

One of the Colourful Dinosaur Inspired Displays at the School

Colourful prehistoric animals.

Colourful prehistoric animals.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The children have two beautiful, giant dinosaur eggs to look after.  Both the eggs were made from paper mache.  In discussion, with the teaching team we suggested that an extension activity could involve the children thinking about what sort of animals lay eggs/do not lay eggs.  Perhaps a classroom display could be created with the children being encouraged to list the types of animals they know that lay eggs.  Can the children sort and group the animals that they have thought of?  For example, those with scales, those with feathers, those that can fly etc.  What might a dinosaur nest be made off?  Can the children sort out different types of material and work out which materials would be good/would not be good to line a nest for a dinosaur egg?

A Giant Dinosaur Egg in a Classroom

A big, blue dinosaur egg.

A big, blue dinosaur egg.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Under the enthusiastic tutelage of the teachers and their support staff the children were certainly enjoying this term topic and there was lots of evidence on display of the children enjoying a broad based, varied activity topic.  The Lower Foundation Stage children had a wonderful sensory bin filled with sand and small stones as well as dinosaur skeletons for them to explore.  In addition, dinosaur models had been made using all sorts of household odds and ends, helping the children to learn about the properties of different materials.  The older children in the two Upper Foundation Stage classes (Monkeys 1 and Monkeys 2) had been busy painting their favourite dinosaurs and there was lots of expressive artwork posted up around the classroom as well as plenty of evidence of vocabulary development.

During the dinosaur workshops with the children, our dinosaur expert encouraged the children’s confidence with counting by introducing simple dinosaur fossil themed counting activities all developed with the aim of helping the budding young palaeontologists to improve their confidence in counting and their understanding of numbers.

Enabling Children to Explore and Play Using a Wide Range of Media

Using different media, important in learning and development.

Using different media, important in learning and development.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Our dinosaur expert, promised to email over some more extension resources to help support the scheme of work prepared by the dedicated teaching team, one of whom stated “the children were very responsive and enjoyed looking at all the resources”.

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