Implementation of “Explorers of the Past: Dinosaurs” (SOI-MT-410)

Author: Annabelle Farrugia, Primary School Teacher

School/Organization: St Michael School, Pembroke, Malta

Children and adults alike have always been fascinated by dinosaurs and all that concerns them.  This could not be truer than with my five-year-old students who have shown interest in this topic from day one.  Working within an ‘emergent curriculum’ framework, implementing this Learning Scenario was an obvious choice as I could capitalise on the interest shown by the children, at the same time reaching several learning outcomes.  This LS was perfect to spark curiosity, leading my students to ask questions and to enable us to explore even deeper.  The resources available on the Europeana website could thus be used as the spark which could light up my class’s learning journey for the week.

What could dinosaurs ever teach us?

This Learning Scenario was implemented with a year one class, made up of 25 students, aged between 5 and 6 years old.  It was interesting that the author of this scenario actually included an activity to investigate what the children knew about dinosaurs at the very start.  This in itself helped me as the teacher to see what they actually thought and what they really wanted to know.  I could then plan how to use the resources so as to satisfy their curiosity, at the same time working towards achieving learning outcomes from the core subjects within the year 1 curriculum.

The aim of helping children differentiate between what is real and what is imaginary was also delved into, as intended by the author of this LS.  Although of a young age, through the resources used and activities carried out, students could understand how scientists rely on excavations, fossils, bones and reconstructions to prove their theories.

This Learning Scenario provided several interesting activities. Thus, the aim was to include as many of them as possible in the implementation.  This aim was reached, except for the suggestion to include an interview with a palaeontologist.  This was not possible, so a video was used instead.

Other activities were also added. Since students were so engaged through this theme, other learning objectives could also be targeted.

What do we know about dinosaurs?

Through this first activity, I wanted to check students’ prior knowledge about the subject.  As suggested by the author of this LS, these preconceptions would mainly be stemming from the children’s imagination, given the nature of the subject.

Thus, I asked students to draw what comes to mind when we think of dinosaurs and we also created a web together, in which I wrote down all the things they mentioned. 

These drawings and the web were then documented in our journal and would be referred to at the end of the project to compare what we knew before vis vis what we knew by the end of the week.

A sample of the children’s drawings

Ideas brought forward by the students, as documented in the journal.

Investigating Dinosaur Skeletons

This activity started with students becoming more familiar with actual dinosaur skeletons through the Europeana website.

Subsequently, three activities were carried out to investigate skeletons. 

a) Dinosaur and their skeletons dig 

I added this activity to the LS as I wanted to take my lessons outdoors and involve a tactile activity.  Students were excited to dig in the soil and discover the different dinosaur cards hiding there.

b) Skeleton and dinosaur matching

As a follow-up to the previous activity, students worked in groups to match the dinosaur to its skeleton.

Digging and then matching the cards.

c) Building skeletons with pasta shapes

This activity was a variation of the challenge presented in the LS whereby I split children into groups and gave them pasta and some other resources we use for building models in class, asking them to first discuss and then build their own dinosaur.  In this way, I also included a STEM task.

Two of the dinosaurs created

Dinosaur Shadow Colouring

This activity aimed to use the dinosaurs the children brought with them to school to explore the science behind shadows being formed.  Students were encouraged to hold their students closer or further away from their papers to explore what would happen to their shadows.  I added this activity to the LS to include a topic from our science curriculum as well.

Once again, the coloured dinosaurs would be displayed in class and used for classifying purposes at the end of the week.

Two of the students working on dinosaur shadows collaboratively

Dinosaur Footprints

Although making fossils was included in the LS, I amended this activity to allow students to use dinosaurs they brought from home to create footprint patterns.  The focus here was related to dinosaur footprints and the different patterns they could see in the different prints on the clay.

Children working on their clay footprints.

What sounds does a dinosaur make?

For this activity, I asked students what sounds they thought dinosaurs made.  After hearing all the different sounds they came up with, I remarked that these sounds sounded very much like the sound of the vowels in the Maltese language.  They agreed with me and we proceeded to revise the vowel sounds in Maltese and then decide which of the dinosaurs on my board they thought would be making which sounds.

Using the interactive board to work with vowel and dinosaur sounds

Dinosaur sun catchers

The aim of this activity was two-fold.  I wanted to revise the names of 2D shapes with my students, as well as give them an opportunity to work on their fine motor skills.  At the same time, once our dinosaurs were up on the windows, I knew I could use them, later on, to help us differentiate between different types of dinosaurs – we could look up at the windows and classify the ones who could fly, the ones who were herbivores etc.

                  Children working on their dinosaur sun catchers

Our New Knowledge of Dinosaurs

Using resources from the Europeana website and the slide show presentation suggested in the LS, I created a presentation to put together what we could learn about dinosaurs from what scientists (palaeontologists) have discovered.

I introduced what palaeontology is about through the video link below.  The children were interested and in awe to see real footage of fossils and skeletons, especially following the activities they had done themselves.

(1178) Studio K Away: Digging for Dinosaurs in Alberta | CBC Kids – YouTube

The following are screenshots of the Powerpoint presentation I created:

Our Journal – How much we learnt about Dinosaurs

Our final step was putting it all together in the form of a journal so that our journey could be shared with our class Team online.  My students participated in the creation of this journal by helping me choose which photos to put in and choosing colours for the background, for example.  The link to the journal was also shared with parents/guardians so that students could go home and go through the journal together with their parents and enjoy recounting and explaining the different activities carried out and all the things learnt.

The following is the link to the completed journal:

Important lessons dinosaurs taught us

The main aim of this LS was to take students through a journey of discovery whereby they would move from basing their knowledge on imagination to having more accurate facts based on science.  I had very good feedback from parents who commented that their children went back home to ask them to go to the website so they could show them what they had seen at school.

Moreover, through the many different activities, many other outcomes were achieved.  Some were very specific, like the revision of vowel sounds in Maltese.  Other outcomes were more general, like the improvement in fine motor skills noted from the beginning of the year as students managed to construct their sun catchers individually.

All students were totally engaged and that in itself is a valid outcome as learning is certainly more meaningful when a child is invested in it.

Finally, I was very pleased to see that students were able to work together collaboratively as this is something I have been working on throughout the scholastic year.  Once more, most of the activities in this LS gave my students the opportunity to work as a team, which I found to be very beneficial.

As an educator, Europeana allowed me to access different resources related to the chosen learning scenario all on one platform. It saved valuable time searching across different platforms for related information and the resources are of great value. Europeana has digital archives that offer a wealth of resources. I thoroughly enjoyed implementing different aspects of the chosen scenario, as well as adding my own spin on the lesson plans to adapt to my class.

I have learnt that not only did my students learn many new things through this kind of teaching, but so did I, as the teacher. Watching my students explore, discuss and collaborate brought my class together as a team, they have started using better vocabulary and always have smiles on their faces! Using arts and digital science heritage in educational activities has so many positive contributions to engage students and encourage their creativity. They help the development of principle skills such as problem-solving and critical thinking. 

Educators implementing these activities should make them interactive wherever possible, using quizzes, discussions etc. to keep the students engaged. Fostering teamwork by allowing them to work together and share their ideas is of utmost importance. Resources play a huge part in educational activities. Using online platforms such as Europeana to access images, videos, articles etc. will aid in keeping the students engaged

Did you find this story of implementation interesting? Why don’t you read about the related learning scenario? Explorers of the Past: dinosaurs created by Vanessa Dubois

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CC BY 4.0: the featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana and has been provided by the Museovirasto.

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