Category Archives: Dinosaurs

Digging for dinosaur bones

Dinosaur Adventure, Norwich © NorahColvin

Dinosaur Adventure, Norwich
© NorahColvin

My family has had a love affair, some might say obsession, certainly a fascination, with dinosaurs for almost forty years. My son initiated the affair when he was about three after being undecided whether to watch or not when dinosaurs burst onto the drive-in screen in One Million Years BC. I’m not sure when I first discovered dinosaurs, but It may have been at the same time.

By the time Rob was four, like many children, he knew the names of a great number of dinosaurs and could rattle off screeds of information about them. It had been a steep learning curve for all of us, though he remembered far more than I. A travelling encyclopedia salesman was so impressed by his knowledge that he gave him a book about dinosaurs. (I’d already purchased; it wasn’t an incentive.) Later, his little sister Bec shared his interest.

dinosaurs at museum Jan 91

© Norah Colvin

Now the affair continues with Rob’s own children. Six-year-old G1 can name and identify far more dinosaurs than I realised existed.  His younger sister G2 is not far behind. Such is the power of these mighty, and not so mighty, beasts to excite the imagination. The entire family become dinosaur experts in support of the children’s quest for knowledge.

I recently accompanied the family to the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York. I have mentioned this previously here. Both were wonderful learning experiences.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

La Brea Tar Pits is a museum located at a fossil site where there are ongoing excavations. In the grounds, we saw realistic sculptures of prehistoric woolly mammoths trapped in the tar. Inside, we saw fossilised skeletons removed from the tar pits; including skeletons of animals such as mammoths, sabre-toothed cats, dire wolves, and camels. Yes, camels originated in North America.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Walking the grounds, we had to sidestep the smelly tar that still oozes in puddles around the site. It’s an amazing experience, walking on the same land where these prehistoric creatures walked, their presence almost tangible. In an enclosed area, a group of paleontologists were working with fossils recovered from the site. Scientists use these fossils to help construct our understanding of life before human history began.

What I find interesting about the understandings derived from these fossils, is that much of it is guesswork; educated guesswork, yes, but fossils tell only part of the story. The rest must be filled in using knowledge of contemporary and recorded life. Sometimes assumptions are made, especially when only partial skeletons are found, that must be altered when, or if, complete skeletons are found.

American Museum of Natural History © Norah Colvin

American Museum of Natural History © Norah Colvin

I was very impressed with the way this aspect of science was dealt with in the American Museum of Natural History. Many signs informed us that scientists don’t know for sure, but that they have substantial evidence for making their assumptions. Other signs told of claims that had been revised as new information was discovered. I appreciated being told, in essence: “This is what we know, this is what we think, and this is the evidence to support our claims.”

This talk by palaeontologist Jack Horner, which I discovered via a link from Charli Millspost, demonstrates the process with some fascinating dinosaur discoveries and assumptions.

This recent BBC article Meet Nanotyrannus, the dinosaur that never really existed provides additional evidence to support Horner’s claims.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

A study of dinosaurs provides many opportunities for learning across the curriculum and what a great way to incorporate children’s natural interests and curiosity when looking at topics such as scientific method, evolution and climate change.

I’m grateful to Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch for the incentive to write about this topic with her challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a fossil or uses the word in its variant forms (fossilize, dino bones, petrification, gastroliths, ichnofossils, etc.)

Since “discovering dinosaurs”, so to speak, I’ve always thought how wonderful it must be to unearth a great find. I haven’t made it an ambition, but I appreciate the potential for excitement. Here’s my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope you enjoy it.

Old Bones

She scratched at the surface tentatively at first, all senses keened, certain of imminent success. She’d uncovered bones here before. Usually one meant there’d be more. All it required was patience and persistence. Suddenly she contacted something more solid than the surrounding earth. She froze. Then exhaled. Could this be the object of her search? Frantically she scraped away the surrounding soil, exposing her find. She stepped back momentarily, assessing it, assuring herself it was real. Then with one final swoop, she removed the bone as carefully and proudly as any paleontologist would a dinosaur bone. “Woof!”

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

20 Lifetime changes

My big sister and me © Norah Colvin

My big sister and me © Norah Colvin

When Bec was little she would often say, “Tell me a story of when you were a little girl.” She would listen in wonder (in my dreams!) as I told her about life on a farm, holidays with relatives and funny things that happened in a large family.

One day, with perfect comedic timing, she followed her request with the question, “What were the dinosaurs like?” We laughed at the time, and still do, but I think that question may have signalled the end of her interest in my childhood, for a time at least. Some aspects of my childhood would have been as unrecognisable to her as the world of the dinosaurs. It is even more so for the children of today.

 © Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Learning about the past from parents and grandparents is one way of piquing young children’s interest in history. When I was in primary school we learned a little of history in what was then called Social Studies. Both ancient and modern history were available as discrete subject choices in high school but seemed to be primarily a list of dates, names and wars with little relevance to my teenage experience. Historical fiction brought otherwise remote and unfamiliar situations to life.

I have touched a little on the topic of history in previous posts, I’m new here, Understanding family relationships and Whose story is it anyway? including mention of an early childhood unit Getting to know you, which is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

 © Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

It amuses me now when visiting museums, particularly small local historical museums as opposed to large national museums, to see artefacts from my childhood on display. Although I don’t necessarily consider myself “old”, definitely not passed my “use by” or even “best by” date, I do realise that to younger ones I am probably a relic from the past, holding as much interest for them as the objects on display. (I am not too old to remember what it was like to be young.)

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills declares herself a history buff who digs “hanging out in cemeteries where history reads in the names and dates carved in stone.” I confess that I have rarely visited a cemetery other than to farewell a loved one and haven’t taken to reading gravestones to feed an interest in history.

The teaching of history in my early childhood classrooms involved helping children to discover and record their own personal histories and the more recent histories of their families and local environment. Celebration or commemoration of historical events such as Australia Day, ANZAC Day or Remembrance Day required some elaboration, without too much detail, of their significance.

Many of the experiences of children growing up now in the early part of the 21st Century are vastly different from those I experienced growing up in the mid-20th Century. Some of the differences are subtle and others more significant.

Since I grew up in the 20th Century, as part of my historical record I decided to list 20 (random) changes that have occurred during my lifetime:

  1. I listened to music on vinyl records on turntables with manual arms. The records needed to be turned over after each side was played. There were no CDs, iPods, Youtube or streaming
  2. I spent hours in the sun, getting burnt to a crisp, without the protection of sunscreen.
  3. Polio was still a major threat and I knew children who suffered it. Now, thanks to immunisation, it is almost eradicated worldwide.
  4. We could purchase fireworks and set them off in our backyards and parks. I have no memory of huge firework displays such as are now part of most community celebrations.
  5. Shop opening hours were very different with shops closed half day Saturday and all day Sunday. No shops opened on Public Holidays and planning was required to ensure there was enough food in the cupboard to last the four day Easter Weekend.
  6. There were no huge supermarkets selling everything, mainly smaller grocery stores and some “corner” stores that sold a few “essential” items. Air conditioning was not common and chocolate was not readily available as it melted in the heat.
  7. There were no theme parks or water parks; just a few amusement rides such as merry-go-rounds and dodgem cars at local and state shows and fairs, and council swimming pools. Very few people had pools in their backyards.
  8. There were no computers, tablets or smart phones. When I started school I wrote on a slate, a tablet of a different kind.
  9. Fish and chips was the most popular and one of the few take-a-ways. There were no McDonald’s, pizza stores and few Chinese restaurants. There were no eateries in large shopping malls. In fact, there were no large shopping malls!
  10. We had an outside dunny with a pan that was collected and replaced weekly.
  11. Telephones were not in every home. They were attached to the wall and had a circular dial. Calls were manually connected by operators at telephone exchanges.
  12. Televisions first became available in Australia when I was a young child but my family did not own one until after I left home. I used to visit an aunt, who lived close by, to watch on her set after school some days.
  13. Cars ran on leaded petrol. I remember my Dad using a crank handle to start the car. The seats were hard and uncomfortable and there was no air conditioning (unless you count winding down the window).
  14. We would go to beach or the park to swim or play all day, without adult supervision. The only requirement was to be home before dark.
  15. Photographs were taken with a box camera and a roll of film which needed to be sent away to be developed and took weeks to be returned. It could take months to fill the roll and often the occasions were well in the past before the photos were received. It was expensive and multiple shots of the same image were not encouraged.
  16. There was little traffic and cars were slow so children often played in the street, which were sometimes still dirt and mostly without kerbs. It seemed to take forever to get from one place to another.
  17. To keep food cool we had ice boxes for which an ice man would deliver a large block ice daily.
  18. We used imperial standards of measurement including pounds and ounces, inches and feet; and shopped with pounds, shillings and pence before converting to decimal currency in 1966 and other units soon after.
  19. Smacking by parents and corporal punishment in school was the main form of discipline. If children were in trouble at school (I never was!J) then they were usually in more trouble at home.
  20. In school we sat in rows of desks nailed to the floor. We listened to the teacher and learned by rote lists of facts which were often chanted repetitively. There was definitely no talking in school and no group work.

old school room

I add one wish for another change I’d like to see in my lifetime in the 21st Century:

For friendship, understanding, tolerance, empathy and peace to rule a sustainable and equitable world!

I don’t ask for much, do I?

Now back to the cemetery and Charli’s flash fiction challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a final resting place. I have taken Marnie to the place where her parents rest as she discovers more about them and their history than she had before realised.

Graveside

She wasn’t sure why she was here. Miss R., Annette, had suggested she come. So she did. What struck her most, as she read the grave markers, was their ages. She’d never thought of them as young but their life spans were short; both a mere 49 years, going within a year of each other. She worked it out. They were younger than she was now when she’d left home. Who’d have thought? She felt a strange sadness, a familiar hollowness, not for the loss of their lives but for the absence of love, love which had never been.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

 

Can you dig it?

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about dirt and has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about dirt.

In her post Charli says that,

writing is like gardening - Charli Mills

and talks about sowing compassion to make our world a “worthier place to live”.

These are wonderful ways of thinking about dirt and good reminders of the importance of the earth beneath our feet, which is often taken for granted, even ignored, unless one is a farmer, a gardener, perhaps a miner, or possibly a child.

Children are often admonished about playing in the dirt, as if washing off a little soil  was the greatest difficulty. In our towns and cities we cover the soil with concrete and leave few patches of bare earth where children have an opportunity to dig.

Soil, though an essential resource of our Earth, is often overlooked. Ask a young child what living things need and they may say “water, air, food, sunshine and shelter”. Soil won’t rate a mention. But without it we wouldn’t have a thing to stand on! Nor would we have our other essentials: air, food and shelter – all dependent on the soil for their production.  The importance of soil and of conserving becomes even more evident with the realisation of how little of the Earth’s surface is available for producing food.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin If Earth was an apple . . .

Another great gift from the soil is knowledge. Much of what we know of Earth’s history and human history has been revealed by the soil as successive layers have been exposed or excavated; uncovering secrets of the past and enabling a much richer understanding of earlier times.

dinosaurs at museum Jan 91

© Norah Colvin

Our knowledge of dinosaurs has all been revealed from the earth with the first discoveries and identifications made only a few hundred years ago.  And there is still much more to be discovered. My children and grandchildren, along with many other children and adults, are fascinated by dinosaurs. How exciting it would be to make a new dinosaur discovery, find hidden treasures or unlock secrets of the past!

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

It is possible that many more dinosaur, and other, discoveries are yet to be made. The world’s only known evidence of a dinosaur stampede was found in Australia just a little over fifty years ago.  Even more recently a gardener in the UK found a dinosaur bone in his backyard! In the US, if you find a dinosaur fossil in your backyard it’s yours to keep!

According to this video, finding dinosaur fossils is quite easy:

The excitement of making new discoveries  and finding answers to questions is motivation for many.

In his book Good Ideas: How to Be Your Child’s (and Your Own) Best Teacher Michael Rosen relates a story told by David Attenborough. He says that, as a child, David took an interest in bones and if he was out walking and found some he would take them home and ask his father (a GP so would probably know) about them.

But his father didn’t just tell him. Wanting his son to be curious and interested in finding things out for himself, he responded, for example: “I wonder if we can work it out . . .” They would then look through books about zoology and anatomy and try to identify the bone’s origin.

Knowing that it is through the comparison of found bones with bones of familiar creatures that scientists have been able to work out much of what we now know about dinosaurs and other extinct creatures makes such an activity even more exciting and inspirational.

Rosen goes on to share an experience from his own school days. When a teacher confessed to students that he didn’t understand Comus by Milton, which had been set for study, the class and teacher spent the year together figuring out its meaning. Rosen compares the effectiveness of this approach to many others, stating that study techniques, “didn’t teach me how to find things that I really wanted to learn about. It didn’t take me down interesting side-alleys where I would find things that I didn’t know I would be interested in until I found them.” But he says what he learned from exploring Comus was “something that’s more to do with feeling than knowledge or learning: it was a confidence that I could investigate and discover things for myself. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that I got that feeling from someone who quite genuinely didn’t understand something?

A sense of wonder and curiosity, and a desire and willingness to find out for oneself answers to one’s own questions is fundamental to learning. Digging in the dirt occasionally can’t do that much harm. You never know what new discovery you may make!

Moini, A treasure chest with lots of twinkling gold coins, https://openclipart.org/detail/188617/treasure-chest

Moini, A treasure chest with lots of twinkling gold coins, https://openclipart.org/detail/188617/treasure-chest

The thought of just such a discovery is what inspired my response to Charli’s challenge:

Digging for gold

Her spade crunched against the obstinate soil. Then tap, tap, tap, another thin layer loosened. She scooped up the soil and tossed it onto the pile growing steadily beside the excavation site. With expectant eyes and gentle fingertips she scanned each new surface. Then again: tap, tap, tap — toss; tap, tap, tap —toss!

She pushed back her hat to wipe her sweaty brow, leaving a smudge of dirt as evidence. She glanced skyward. The sun was high. She’d been digging for hours. She must find something soon. What would it be? Pirate’s treasure or dinosaur bones . . .?

 

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

 

 

 

 

Dinosaur party

My gorgeous little grandson is four years old tomorrow.

He is captivated by dinosaurs and engages all members of the family in playing dinosaur games.

To celebrate his birthday this week, I decided to make this little book about a dinosaur game with his family members (little sister Anna, parents, an aunt and uncle, and two sets of grandparents).

I hope you enjoy it too!

There are 2 choices of format: read it by yourself or read-along with me.

Read it by yourself:

You have three choice of arrows to use to page through the book : on the book itself, below the book, or on your keyboard.

Click on the full screenbelow the image to view in full screen.

Read-along with me:

Click on the arrow to hear a reading of the story.

Related article:

Play. Dinosaur party (antlersandoctopus.com)