Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

3.7 Dinosaurs


3.7: Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs exert an almost universal pull on kids. It‘s as if dinosaur fascination is built into kid DNA! Younger kids especially love reading stories about dinos, playing with dinosaur toys, and learning their long, complicated scientific names. Here are a few activity suggestions revolving around dinosaurs to help you capitalize on that fascination:

Test dinosaur identification skills with flashcard games or plastic models. Dinosaur cards are commercially available, or you can make your own by cutting pictures of dinosaurs from books, magazines, or web sites. If using plastic models, you can reward kids who come up with the right name by giving them the model—one model per child in your group. You can also give kids pages from a dinosaur coloring book, with each child coloring a different dinosaur and sharing—and naming—the results with the group. And for yet another activity for testing dino-ID skills, construct crossword puzzles with names of dinosaurs.

Draw and color dinosaur murals or timelines on a long sheet of paper, incorporating dinosaur stickers. Sheets of dinosaur stickers can be found in party or gift-wrapping sections of stores, in craft stores, bookstores, etc.

Create dino-dioramas with models in shoe boxes. Talk with your kids about which dinosaurs in the diorama are plant eaters versus meat eaters and who‘s hunting whom.

Make dinosaur masks on cardboard sheets using templates available from web sites or from books such as Shaffer‘s Cut & Make Dinosaur Masks or Smith‘s Dinosaur Punch-Out Masks. You can also make 3-D masks by coating large inflated balloons with papier-mâché or using grocery bags, cardboard, glue, colorful markers, and other readily available materials.

Assemble dinosaur skeletons from chicken bones (see Chris McGowan‘s books, Make Your Own Dinosaur out of Chicken Bones and T-Rex To Go: Build Your Own from Chicken Bones). Commercial kits are available from places like Edmunds Scientific for excavating bones and/or building skeleton models with wooden or plastic bones. A fun group activity for assembling a 6-foot dino skeleton involves cutting large bones out of cardboard and hiding them around a room. Then hold a scavenger hunt. Once all bones have been found, assemble them with brass fasteners.

Hold a fact-or-fiction quiz contest game. A site devoted to dinosaurs: Facts & Fiction is on the USGS web site.

Make collections of fossils from the age of dinosaurs. Some parts of the U.S., like Texas, the Dakotas, the Rocky Mountain states, and the West in general, abound in marine and land fossils from the Mesozoic Era, and localities with Cretaceous marine fossils are common on the East Coast and Southeast.

Make dinosaur footprint molds and casts with clay and plaster.

Simulate the sounds of dinosaurs! Hadrosaurs had large, hollow crests on their heads. Paleontologists believe they used these to "honk" to one another. Using two 3- or 4-foot lengths of pcp pipe joined by a U-shaped connection, you can craft a simulated hadrosaur crest. With a big breath, blast into it as you would with a tuba, blowing air through pursed lips, and the honk of a hadrosaur will fill the air, some 65 million years after the last hadrosaur honk blasted across the land.

Visit a museum that has dinosaur skeletons or go on a dinosaur-related field trip to a place like a dinosaur track-way park.

Send kids on a Dino Scavenger Hunt. At a monthly meeting, ask them to come to next month‘s meeting with a list of places they saw dinosaurs. For instance, I‘ve seen them on cereal boxes at the grocery store, on TV cartoons, on lunch boxes, on T-shirts, on gift-wrapping paper, and in the toy store. Did dinosaurs really go extinct 65 million years ago? Hard to tell, given that they still seem to surround us!

You can find dinosaur activities, quizzes, and more on museum web sites. For instance, enter Dinosaur Dig into the search box of the San Diego Natural History Museum web site. Check for similar sections on the web sites of major museums around the country, such as the Chicago Field Museum, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, DC, etc.

A web site offering things like dinosaur trading cards, colorable posters, and craft projects is Dino Dan. (We were alerted to this neat web site by Daniel Jones of the Midland Gem & Mineral Society of Texas.)

To access many dinosaur facts, games, activities, printables, coloring pages, and more, go to the Teacher‘s Guide and enter dinosaurs into the search box.

Rob Sankovich of the Conejo Gem and Mineral Club (California) recommends going to Teaching Kids About Dinosaurs. It is filled with dinosaur resources and links, lesson plans, virtual tours and games, clipart, and art project suggestions.

One book with all sorts of dinosaur facts and trivia is Rachel Firth‘s Dinosaurs (2001), in the Usborne Discovery Internet-Linked Series. It offers links to recommended web sites to extend learning beyond the pages of the printed book via the Usborne Quicklinks Website, where you enter the keywords discovery dinosaurs. The featured web sites offer further information, animations, games, activities, and more, including pictures kids can download and use in reports.

In addition to these activities, there‘s no end of dinosaur activity books geared to every age level. Just one example is Janice VanCleave‘s Dinosaurs for Every Kid. Check Amazon.com, the kids‘ sections of bookstores, teacher supply stores, and the web. Just type dinosaur into a search engine like Google or Bing, and thousand of possibilities spring up! Pick one or more to do a dinosaur activity with your club‘s kids—and thank Mitty Scarpato (of the Conejo Gem and Mineral Club in California) for suggesting that we include Dinosaur activities in the FRA Badge Program.