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The Dinosaur Project

The Dinosaur Project

Research (pdf)

When the semester began Dave and I observed the children closely to see what topic they might be interested in exploring in some depth. It quickly became apparent that dinosaurs were a subject of general interest. After Dave and I did a brainstorm of possibilities and asked the children to contribute questions they had about dinosaurs it became obvious that this was a topic that could be taken in many interesting directions.

We began with some typical dinosaur activities: sorting plastic dinosaurs, putting dinosaur props in the block area, and reading books about dinosaurs. A book that really prompted considerable interest was Bones, Bones, Bones by Byron Barton. We added a “Paleontology Lab” to the class and did some activities that simulated excavating bones. These activities promoted a lot of exploration and questioning by the children. It was at this point that the children decided that we needed to bring in an expert. Dr. Hillenius’s visit prompted an intense interest in fossils and again the children began to ask a new set of exciting questions. Eventually the children went on a fossil hunt where they found real fossils. The fossil hunt resulted in a side study of rocks that allowed us to have another expert come talk to the children.

As the end of the semester approached the children decided that they wanted to make a movie about dinosaurs and paleontologists. The year ended with the premiere of our movie, “The Dinosaurs Help.”

As I review the semester I am astounded by how much the children learned in their semester long study of dinosaurs. The topic lead them from dinosaurs to bones, fossils, and rocks. In the process they developed skills in questioning, hypothesizing, experimenting, requestioning, researching, listening, measuring, counting, categorizing, and communicating with drawings and the spoken and written word. More importantly they developed dispositions for engagement in extended learning.

As I reflect on the semester, however, I can see several areas that I would like to pursue as a teacher. In our next project I would like to focus on developing more ways for the children to express their thinking through art materials and story. Also, I would like to make extensive use of the children’s words and work to spur them on to higher levels of questioning and thinking. I think these two things have the potential to make our projects even more exciting.

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