Category: Teaching

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.

Palaeontologist versus Paleontologist

Palaeontologist v Paleontologist – What’s the Difference?

During our school visits to carry out dinosaur and fossil themed workshops we often get asked to help with various aspects of the teaching scheme of work.  Everything Dinosaur’s team members are happy to provide advice and to assist where they can.  We even send out lots of free teaching resources, lesson plans, activity ideas and learning aids related to fossils and prehistoric animals.  However, we do see a lot of other teaching resources, many of which have been downloaded from education company websites, that are inaccurate.  Some of these resources have cost money, thus depleting an already stretched teaching budget.  We try to do what we can to help out.

Everything Dinosaur Provides a Lot of Teaching Resources to Schools

So many events, so many activities, so many photographs.

So many events, so many activities, so many photographs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Today we will deal with a very simple point, the difference between “palaeontology” and “paleontology”.  We know that a number of the resources used by teachers and learning support providers (home educators too for that matter), are sourced from other countries, such as America.  Herein lies the confusion.   The word palaeontology is often seen in these resources (and elsewhere) with an “a” missing.  We have the term “palaeontologist” and also “paleontologist”.

So let’s start at the beginning – what is palaeontology or paleontology? 

Palaeontology or paleontology mean the same thing.  These words describe the branch of science that deals with the study of extinct animals and plants and their fossilised remains.  The word is derived from the Greek palaios which means “ancient”, a reference to prehistoric times.  Palaeontology (with an extra “a” added) is the term used in Britain and elsewhere in the world, whilst paleontology is the Americanised version of the word and it is customarily used in the USA.  Both words are interchangeable but most institutions tend to use one word rather than the other.  For example, Everything Dinosaur uses the term palaeontology, whilst the Chicago Field Museum (Illinois, USA) uses the word paleontology.  The dropping the “a” convention applies to all the sub-disciplines in this broad area of scientific study.

Common Terms in Palaeontology and Related Subjects

Palaeontology (UK) Paleontology (USA) - The study of extinct organisms and their fossils.
Palaeontologist (UK) Paleontologist (USA) - A person who studies extinct organisms and their fossils.
Vertebrate Palaeontologist (UK) Vertebrate Paleontologist (USA)  - The branch of palaeontology that studies animals with back bones.
Invertebrate Palaeontologist (UK) Invertebrate Paleontologist (USA) - The branch of palaeontology that studies animals without back bones.
Micropalaeontology (UK) Micropaleontology (USA) - The study of microscopic fossils (micro-fossils).
Palaeobotany (UK) Paleobotany (USA) - fossil plants; traditionally includes the study of fossil algae and fungi in addition to land plants.
Human Palaeontology (UK) Human Paleontology (USA) The study of prehistoric human and proto-human fossils.
Palaeoanthropology (UK) Paleoanthropology (USA) - As above (prehistoric human and proto-human fossils).
Palaeoecology (UK) Paleoecology (USA) - Ecology of extinct and prehistoric organisms.
Palaeoclimatology (UK) Paleoclimatology (USA) - The study of past climates.
Palaeogeography (UK) Paleogeography (USA) - Study of geographical features of the past.
Palaeomagnetism (UK) Paleomagnetism (USA) - Study of the magnetism remaining in rocks and related magnetic fields.

 Credit: Everything Dinosaur

So the terms palaeontology and paleontology are equally valid, but whilst working in schools and UK based museums we tend to use the terms with an extra “a”.

To learn more about Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools: Dinosaur and Fossil Workshops in Schools

Everything Dinosaur’s New School Website Is Launched

Dinosaur Workshops In School

Everything Dinosaur’s new teaching themed website has been launched today.  This new site, aimed at helping teachers, learning support providers and home educators is packed full of dinosaur and fossil themed teaching ideas, blog articles, helpful hints and free downloads.

Dinosaurs for Schools

Everything Dinosaur aims to help teachers, museums and home educators.

Everything Dinosaur aims to help teachers, museums and home educators.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To visit Everything Dinosaur’s educational site: Dinosaur Workshops and Teaching Resources

The new website has been designed to act as an educational resource to help teachers, teaching assistants and other member of the teaching profession to cover science subjects aimed at school children from the Early Years Foundation Stage right up to Key Stage 4 and beyond.  Home educators too, will find this new resource helpful.  Everything Dinosaur’s team of teaching professionals have worked over the last six months or so to provide reliable assistance with the challenges posed by the new curriculum.  The intention is to help learning support providers and teachers by permitting access to dinosaur, fossil and evolution teaching resources that have been checked over by dinosaur experts and fossil collectors, thus providing a reliable set of resources and guides to assist educators as they instil the skills needed to develop an interest in and perhaps a career in the sciences.

A spokesperson for Everything Dinosaur commented:

“It is all about getting students to develop scientific skills such as enquiry, investigation, observation and analysis.  For many teachers the challenge will be to help pupils to work scientifically, whilst for those teaching professionals working at EYFS and Key Stage 1 a dinosaur themed teaching topic is a great way to help engage the children.”

Why we Do What we Do

Everything Dinosaur Helps to Inform and Educate

It seems like a long time ago now, but when our happy band got together we set about creating a mission statement, a sort of who we are, what we do and why do we do it.  Other organisations had such things and we thought we ought to have one too.  As a teaching team, we wanted to help inform and educate and our mission statement for our work in schools reflects this.

Teaching Mission Statement

 ”Everything Dinosaur’s aim is to help motivate young people to learn more about Earth sciences by participating in hands-on, dinosaur themed teaching activities and dinosaur workshops.  Our mission is to engage and inspire the next generation of young scientists by having dinosaurs and fossils in school.”

Every day we receive letters, drawings, photographs, pictures all sorts of things from school children.  It is always a pleasure to see them.  We encourage creative writing as part of our work in schools and as a result we get lots of thank you letters, stories and fact sheets sent in.

 A Typical Letter Sent in by a Dinosaur Fan

Helping to encourage sentence construction and creative writing.

Helping to encourage sentence construction and creative writing.

Picture Credit Phoebe (Year 1)

We do our best to reply to all the questions we get asked and we try to make sure that everyone’s efforts are acknowledged.  We have young dinosaur fans all over the world, we get correspondence from Scandinavia, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Australia, just about every country you can think of.

Drawing of a Triceratops (M. V. Eashwar from India)

Super drawing of a Triceratops from M. V. Eashwar.

Super drawing of a Triceratops from M. V. Eashwar.

Picture Credit: M. V. Eashwar

In two weeks time the new school year starts and we can’t wait to meet all the enthusiastic palaeontologists during our many scheduled classroom visits to conduct dinosaur workshops.

Getting Ready for “Back to School”

Dinosaurs for School

The first week of August is nearly over and team members at Everything Dinosaur are busy finalising their teaching plans and activities for the next school term.  It feels like only yesterday we were completing our last round of dinosaur themed workshops in school at the start of the summer holidays, and now we are busy preparing for 2015 and beyond.  Roll on the next school year.

When it comes to equipping young palaeontologists in readiness  for school, Everything Dinosaur has just about everything any dinosaur fan might need.  From pencils, pens, art materials, books, school sets, soft and cuddly school back packs and even school lunch boxes (all with a dinosaur theme of course), Everything Dinosaur is a one stop shop for back to school products and stationery.

Back to School 2014/15 with Everything Dinosaur

Get ready to "roar" back to school.

Get ready to “roar” back to school.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To visit Everything Dinosaur’s website: Dinosaur Themed School Products

The picture shows the new banner which has in the centre of it the soft and cuddly Tyrannosaurus rex back pack that we supply.  Naturally, our dedicated dinosaur experts ensure that a T. rex fact sheet is sent out with sales of this popular dinosaur themed school back pack as well, it is our way of helping to inform and educate the next generation of scientists.

Our new schools website is ready for launch, packed with lots of helpful advice, lesson plans and free downloads for teachers, learning support providers and for those who home school.  For further information on Everything Dinosaur’s work in school visit: Dinosaur and Fossil Workshops for School, our team members have been very busy putting together new schemes of work to help support the new teaching curriculum.

So it’s full steam ahead, now where did we put our exercise books?

A Helping Hand for Teachers

Providing Keys for Teachers and Teaching Assistants

Everything Dinosaur supplies a number of dinosaur and prehistoric themed items to schools, universities and colleges and with the changing curriculum in the UK, our sets of model dinosaur skulls and packs of imitation fossils are proving to be very popular.  However, we have received a number of requests from teachers and teaching assistants to help them further by providing a key to each of these items.

The Set of Dinosaur Model Skulls (Safari Ltd)

The set features 11 different types of dinosaur skull.

The set features 11 different types of dinosaur skull.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

These detailed models feature carnivores, herbivores and omnivores and they are useful when studying dinosaurs, food chains, variation and other teaching topics.  In response to teaching requests, our team members have provided a handy key that identifies the dinosaur skulls.

The Identification Chart for the Dinosaur Skull Set

Finely crafted models of dinosaur skulls.

Finely crafted models of dinosaur skulls.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We can supply further information about these eleven different members of the Dinosauria, just email Everything Dinosaur for further assistance: Contact Us

The set of imitation fossils is also very popular with schools, especially with teachers focusing on Key Stage 2.  This set includes examples of different types of creature and how they are fossilised.  We have an Ammonite shell, the tooth of a meat-eating dinosaur, fossil crabs, trilobites and so forth.

The Collection of Fossil Models from Everything Dinosaur (Safari Ltd)

Helping teachers at Key Stage 2.

Helping teachers at Key Stage 2.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The ten typical fossils can be used in a number of teaching projects from craft sessions to providing a stimulus for independent research.  These robust models can even be used to help create plasticine copies of fossils or even charcoal rubbings.  Our helpful guide is already proving very useful, happy to help teachers and learning support providers as they get prepared for the start of the new curriculum.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of dinosaur skull sets and ancient fossils: Prehistoric Animals and Teaching Resources

A spokes person for Everything Dinosaur commented:

We appreciate that a number of teaching teams across the country are working on exciting new ideas to help them develop schemes of work in accordance with the new curriculum.  It is great to see rocks, fossils and dinosaurs as part of the national curriculum.  Studying the likes of Mary Anning will help encourage girls in particular to consider becoming more involved with science subjects later on in their school career.”

Dinosaur Extinction – A Perfect Storm

Bad Luck and Bad Timing for the Dinosaurs

A new collaborative study looking at the dinosaur fossil record from the Upper Cretaceous of North America suggests that if the extraterrestrial impact event had occurred a few million years before or after it actually hit, life on Earth could be very different today.  Dinosaurs could well be still roaming around.  If the Dinosauria (with the exception of the birds), had not gone extinct, then it could be argued that many of the families of mammals so familiar to us today may not have evolved.  The evolution of the primates, and indeed, our own species, might not ever have happened.

Unlucky Dinosaurs Sixty-six Million Years Ago?

Cataclysmic impact event.

Cataclysmic impact event.

Picture Credit: Don Davis (commissioned by NASA)

Similar studies into the extinction event that took place approximately 66 million years ago have been carried out before, however, this new research, published in the latest edition of the academic journal “Biological Reviews” and led by the University of Edinburgh, focused on examining an updated catalogue of North American dinosaur fossils, in a bid to understand how well the Order Dinosauria was doing in terms of species diversity at around the time of the impact event.

Previous studies, examining the number of different dinosaur species and genera preserved in Upper Cretaceous strata such as the Hell Creek Formation of the western United States, have showed that the number of different types of dinosaur fossils found declines in rocks that mark the time period towards the end of the Cretaceous.  A lack of diversity in an ecosystem, or the dominance of one particular type of creature, can make such ecosystems vulnerable to sudden and dramatic changes that ultimately lead to an extinction.  The research team, drawn from a number of universities and museums, conclude that prior to the impact event, our planet was experiencing dramatic environmental upheaval.  Changing sea levels, fluctuating global temperatures and enormous amounts of volcanic activity were all happening.  Many groups of animals and plants were under stress and the devastating impact from a six-mile-wide space rock provided the final “coup de grâce” that finished off the dinosaurs.

Soon to Become Extinct

Triceratops was one of the last dinosaurs to evolve.

Triceratops was one of the last dinosaurs to evolve.

Picture Credit: Julius Csotonyi

The research team which includes scientists from Edinburgh University, Birmingham University, Imperial College (London), Oxford University, University College (London) and Baylor University (Waco, Texas) suggest that the dinosaurs’ food chain was threatened by a lack of diversity amongst large herbivorous dinosaurs.  The lack of diversity, much of North America was dominated by a handful of plant-eating types of Ornithischian dinosaur, created a “perfect storm” and the vulnerable Dinosauria was unable to recover from the extraterrestrial strike and its aftermath.

Everything Dinosaur team members have provided a number of teaching resources to schools that help to explain extinction events.  To read an article specially prepared for use in schools at Key Stage 2 and 3 about the Cretaceous mass extinction event: Dinosaur Extinction Event – Providing Teaching Resources for Schools

Environmental change, even dramatic global events such as an asteroid impact can in fact provide a stimulus to evolution.  Earlier extraterrestrial impacts which at first caused devastation may actually have acted as catalysts helping certain types of life to flourish.  It can be argued that once the dinosaurs became extinct, the Mammalia were able to rapidly diversify and exploit the niches left vacant by the demise of the Dinosauria, back in 2010, Everything Dinosaur reported on a scientific paper that suggested that earlier cataclysmic events and significantly benefited life on Earth.

To read this article: Extraterrestrial Impact Led to Palaeozoic Explosion of Life

Dr. Steve Brusatte (School of GeoSciences at Edinburgh University) commented:

“Five million years earlier dinosaur ecosystems were much stronger, they were more diverse, the base of the food chain was more robust and it was harder to knock out a lot of species.  If they had a few million years more to recover their diversity they would have had a better chance of surviving the asteroid impact.  Dinosaurs had been around for 160 million years, they had plenty of dips and troughs in their diversity but they always recovered.”

A number of mass extinction events have been identified in the fossil record.  Such mass extinctions ultimately led to a change in direction for life on Earth, permitting new types of organism to evolve.

A Table Showing the Major Extinction Events of the Phanerozoic Eon

Mass Extinction in Summary

Table Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The research team hope to extend their study by taking into account vertebrate fossil data from Upper Cretaceous sediments that have been examined in China and Spain.  This will help the scientists to formulate a global picture.  Naturally, with such academic papers, there is always speculation as to whether or not the dinosaurs would have survived until the present day.  Some speculators go further and ask the question would the dinosaurs have evolved greater intelligence, perhaps evolving into the reptilian equivalents of primates and eventually into a form of humanoid dinosaur – a dinosauroid?

Could the Earth Have Been Dominated by “Intelligent Dinosaurs”?

What intelligent life on Earth might have looked like if the dinosaurs had not become extinct.

What intelligent life on Earth might have looked like if the dinosaurs had not become extinct.

Picture Credit: Boxtree

Dr. Brusatte speculates that the Dinosauria could well have survived and that non-avian dinosaurs could make up a significant proportion of the fauna today, whilst other scientists, including a number who worked on this study remain less sure.

For example, Dr. Richard Butler (Birmingham University) stated:

“We can’t re-run the tape of life and see whether an impact at a different time would have led to total extinction.  But it [extraterrestrial impact event] did come at a particularly bad time.”

What Kind of Prehistoric Animal was Urvogel?

Explaining about Archaeopteryx

Earlier this week, Everything Dinosaur was emailed by a young dinosaur fan who asked about a prehistoric animal named Urvogel.  She had come across it whilst learning about the famous fossil site of Solnhofen in southern Germany.  The word “Urvogel” is German and it means “first bird”, it refers to Archaeopteryx (A. lithographica), the fossils of which are synonymous with the finely grained limestone beds of the Solnhofen quarries.

The Ancient “Dino-Bird” Archaeopteryx

the first bird - "Urvogel".

the first bird – “Urvogel”.

Picture Credit: Carl Buell

Palaeontologists now know that this creature, fossils of which show a transitional form between Theropod dinosaurs and birds, was probably not the first bird to evolve.  However, when a spectacular fossil discovery was announced in 1861, Archaeopteryx became the first feathered fossil of its kind to be formerly studied and its fossils caused a sensation, as only two years before Charles Darwin had published “The Origin of Species” that outlined the case for evolution and natural selection.

The Solnhofen limestone deposits are finely grained and they outcrop in an east to west belt north of Munich and south of Nuremberg.  Hundreds of fossils of invertebrates have been found and the vertebrate fauna preserved includes over fifty types of fossil fish, around thirty reptiles (Pterosaurs, marine reptiles, dinosaurs and crocodiles).  The Solnhofen deposits are regarded as a Lagerstätte.  This is a German phrase from the words Lager (which means storage) and Stätte (which means place).  It refers to a deposit of sedimentary strata that contains a lot of fossil material that is exceptionally well preserved.

During the Late Jurassic, shallow tropical lagoons and small islands stretched all the way from Portugal in the south through France and into southern Germany.  Coral reefs formed in the tropical seas and these reefs split the coastline up forming a series of isolated lagoons.  These lagoons were cut off from the sea and also from terrestrial run off.  The salinity levels rose in the lagoons and the water may have become oxygen deficient.  This made the mud on the bottom of these lagoons almost devoid of life so any animal or plant remains that drifted into the lagoon was not consumed by scavengers.  The almost stagnant waters had little current so the remains of corpses were not broken up.  Organisms buried by the soft, carbonate muds and formed as fossils in the finely grained sediment therefore have exceptional details preserved and many of these body fossils are almost complete.

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