IMG_0304One of my group of 2nd graders has been learning about dinosaurs and the process paleontologists go through in locating and extracting dinosaur bones.  As I’ve learned with this group, their questions and curiosity often lead us in IMG_0301a direction I wasn’t really expecting, but always takes us to a place of great learning.

This group was particularly interested in the locating of dinosaur bones more so than dinosaurs.  I read a mentor text initially (National Geographic Kids’ Dinosaurs–you know how I love those books) and the direction of the rest of the lesson went in the opposite direction of what I had planned.  We still continued on with the book All About Dinosaurs, which I planned for, but then we went into research mode.

We learned there is a more lengthy process to extracting dinosaur bones than we thought, including me.  We made IMG_1623this into an anchor chart.

  1. Prospecting–looking around for a possible dig site.  (This may include waiting a lengthy time to get permits to dig.  The paleontologist we researched about had to wait a year to get the proper permits.  Wow!)
  2. Quarrying–digging around the fossil to expose it.
  3. Vinacing–putting plastic onto the bone to stabilize it.  (None of us knew this happened!)
  4. Mapping–mapping, logging, documenting the area.
  5. Jacketing–wrapping and protecting the bone in plaster. (This was new for us, too!)
  6. Extracting–moving the bone to a new place to be transported to a museum/research area.

The kids were having a difficult time grasping the concept of how they know where to find dinosaur bones, which paleontologists don’t really know.  They can take a good guess and go off of where other bones have been located, but there’s no real way of knowing.  To make this concept a little more concrete I baked a pan of brownies (real brownies this time–they asked!) and put in different candies varying from twizzlers, tootsie rolls, nerds, mini oreos, etc. in various sizes just like would happen with a dinosaur bone.  I brought in the brownies and showed them the pan.  I asked them where the “bones” where.  They all shrugged their shoulders at me.  I had them draw a “map” of the brownies, which IMG_0302was just a rectangle.  I divided the pan into equal parts and gave them all a large portion of brownie.  From there, 2nd graders had to follow the steps paleontologists follow in locating bones.  They had to carefully expose “bones” and then map out in their writing journals where they found items.  And, of course, after all the scientific research had been completed, brownies were consumed.  This was a fun process and lots of giggles as new “bones” were discovered from each child.

Students then wrote about the step-by-step process they had to go through while extracting their “bones” during the brownie activity.  We had a great time learning and researching with each other–and I learned just as much as the kiddos did.