DINOSAURS IN THE CLASSROOM:
HOW WE KNOW WHAT WE KNOW
THE PRESENT wave of dinosaur mania makes it easy to utilize a student's interest in the
former masters of the Earth to introduce a wide variety of concepts. Students are already
familiar with the names and habits of many of the animals, but familiarity can accomplish
much more. Stephen Jay Gould (1991) asks, "Could we not immediately subvert more of the
dinosaur craze from crass commercialism to educational value? . . . Dinosaur facts and
figures can inspire visceral interest and lead to greater wonder about science. Dinosaur
theories and reconstructions can illustrate the rudiments of scientific reasoning." We
fervently share Gould's tenet that dinosaurs can be used as a medium not only to teach
students about the way science works, but to introduce a broad range of thinking skills as
Three activities can be found elsewhere on this site: "Where Can I See The Sea?", "Correlation and Strata", and
"The Name Game". The first is from Munsart (1993) and other two are from Munsart and
Alonzi-Van Gundy (1995). The activities have been used successfully in primary,
intermediate and middle-school classrooms. Two of the activities allow students to appreciate
that fossils are more than curios for collectors. They are artifacts of life on Earth from
millions of years ago and provide clues to help reconstruct the environments and ecosystems
that existed long before human documentation was possible. The third activity allows
students to explore how dinosaur names are determined and has application to a general study
of language and word origins.
We are both classroom teachers and appreciate the time and energy requirements of day-to-
day classroom survival. To that end we have tried to make the activities user-friendly with
minimal teacher preparation.
Gould, S. J. 1991. Bully For Brontosaurus. W. W. Norton, New York.
Munsart, C. A. 1993. Investigating Science With Dinosaurs. Teacher Ideas Press, Englewood,
Munsart, C. A. and Alonzi-Van Gundy, K. 1995. Primary Dinosaur Investigations. Teacher
Ideas Press, Englewood, Colorado.