Dinosaur Themed Activities Inspire Young Children to Learn About Science
A child’s fascination with dinosaurs and all things prehistoric is helping to motivate and inspire pupils at many schools. With the advent of a more creative curriculum, teachers and teaching assistants are using children’s love of dinosaurs to help enthuse them about science subjects and to explore concepts such as how to develop and test theories.
Described as using a “Triceratops as a Trojan Horse”, students are able to explore scientific concepts and methodologies using a range of activities enabling differentiation in the classroom setting as well as providing ready-made opportunities for extension activities and supported learning. With a new dinosaur species being named every twenty to thirty days or so and something like twelve hundred dinosaur genera already described, these prehistoric animals always seem to have a high profile in the media. This can help teachers to write inspiring lesson plans based on these long extinct reptiles.
Turning Triceratops into A Trojan Horse
Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur
An example would be working with children studying the national curriculum key stage two (children aged between 7 and 9 years typically in primary school years 3 to 5). The concept of “deep time” can be explained using a timeline which they construct showing when dinosaurs lived in relation to people the children may have already studied as part of previous term topics – The Romans, Ancient Greeks etc. By plotting a scale line showing the millions of years that dinosaurs existed, students, under the supervision of the teaching staff can build up a linear diagram that shows when the dinosaurs lived and relates this time to the time of Ancient Rome, the Greek civilisation and such like. With a time scale of one centimetre representing a million years the children can place events in the correct periods of time, an objective outlined within the national curriculum teaching objectives. By placing individual dinosaurs in the correct geological period, Apatosaurus within the Jurassic and Tyrannosaurus rex within the Cretaceous, pupils can gain an appreciation about which dinosaurs lived when and what other prehistoric animals lived at the same time. Secondary resources can then be used to get the children to learn more about individual dinosaurs and this leads onto extension activities such as each child researching, drawing and writing about their own prehistoric animal.
When making my own timeline with school children, my tip would be to use a scale of one centimetre equals one million years and plot the history of life on Earth from the present day back to 250 million years ago, the beginning of the Triassic geological period and just before the dinosaurs came to prominence in terms of land animal populations on Earth. This means that a timeline some 2.5 metres in length can be created, easily able to be fitted along part of a classroom wall for display purposes.
With children from under three years beginning to learn about and show knowledge about these long extinct reptiles, the Dinosauria lend themselves to working with reception/foundation aged children. When consulting on Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) teaching it is important to help children understand the nature of materials and the world around them. The EYFS framework has recently been revised and remains the statutory framework for the teaching standards required for early years providers. This teaching framework helps to prepare reception/foundation aged children for school and ensures that children acquire the skills needed to help them make good progress in future through their academic studies. A number of teachers are making “Dinosaurs” the first term topic that the children encounter, fossils and models can help them explore the properties of different materials and even different dinosaur toys can help them learn about different parts of the body. Simple selection and counting games can be encouraged such as picking out all the models of prehistoric animals that have four legs, count the number of green ones and such like. These types of activities also lend themselves to a number of extension activities such as grouping animals together that share the same characteristics and such like.
Exploring the Properties of Different Materials with Dinosaurs
When working with older children, a simple maths lesson can be made more challenging and fun by creating a dinosaur track way with pretend dinosaur foot prints. The children can learn to measure and calculate using these simple yet imaginative props. At one school, a headmaster was asked to step in and conduct a hour long maths class with a group of year 7 children (Key Stage 3 age 11-12 years). He borrowed some footprint drawings and laid out a series of dinosaur tracks in the school hall and then by splitting the class into groups he challenged them to use rulers and tape measures to work out as much information about the animal that left the tracks as possible. He was able to develop this lesson plan by introducing the concept of scale drawings and the average measures (the arithmetic mean). It was certainly a memorable and rewarding maths based lesson that helped the pupils get to grips with simple scientific concepts such as mapping and plotting as well as introducing simple equations and use of numeracy.
To learn more about Everything Dinosaur’s teaching activities: Dinosaur Themed School Lessons
Exploring Dinosaurs and Fossil Finds with Classroom Activities
Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur
Teachers and teaching assistants can use children’s interest in prehistoric animals to help them learn about the world around them and simple scientific principles. Finding out about who the dinosaurs were, where they lived, what they ate, when they lived, how big they were etc. can all help teachers to ensure that the objectives of the national curriculum are being met. Importantly, it also means that imaginative and inspiring lesson plans are being devised, plans that will permit plenty of differentiation and extension as well as dove-tailing into different needs of pupils and learning styles.