During our superhero project we noticed students incorporating dinosaurs into their dramatic play. The superheroes were either saving the dinosaurs from volcanoes or protecting humans from dinosaurs that came to earth.

To test the children’s interest we began putting dinosaur books, toys, and costumes into the classroom. Once we had confirmed the children’s interest, we did a mind map. Mind maps help us to understand what the children know and what they want to know.

Discovering Dinosaurs Entry Point
How do we know dinosaurs lived on earth? Many of the children talked about bones in museums during our mind map. We wanted the children to think about how the bones got into the museum, where they came from, and who found them. For our entry point we asked the children to become paleontologists for a day and dig up dinosaur fossils that were hidden in our outdoor sand pit. We also took a trip to the Beijing Museum of Natural History. Here, the children were able to get a better idea of the size and shape of dinosaurs.

Dinosaur Table – Small World Play
Our Dinosaur discussion moved to the topic of landscapes. The children were interested in what the world may have looked like long ago. We brainstormed and looked at picture books to get a better idea of what the earth may have looked like during the Jurassic era. The children worked together to make a desert, forest, volcano, and ocean. Throughout our project the children used the table for dramatic play and sensory investigations.

Where Have The Dinosaurs Gone?
We moved on to our second question, “where have all the dinosaurs gone.” In the second half of our project we tested each theory the children came up with during our initial mind map. After each theory, the class voted if this could have been the cause of the dinosaur disappearance.

Theory 1: Ice
For this experiment we froze toy dinosaurs in ice. The children were asked to safely remove the dinosaurs as fast as possible. The children were asked to make predictions about what would happen to the ice when applying each material.

Theory 2: Volcanoes – Lava, Smoke and Rocks
If ice didn’t kill the dinosaurs then maybe it was a volcano. The class discussed what happens when a volcano erupts. The children talked about fire, lava, smoke, and rocks. First, we did an experiment with baking soda, vinegar and food colouring to simulate lava erupting from a volcano. During our second experiment we used dry ice and warm water to mimic how smoke from a volcano could cover the earth. The class concluded that lava could have killed the dinosaurs or the smoke could have killed all of the dinosaurs’ food.

Theory 3: Big Rocks Hit The Earth
In this experiment we tried to simulate what would happen if a large rock or star hit earth. Using rocks of different sizes and weight, we dropped them into a box of sand and a box of water. The class determined that the rock had to be big, heavy, and made of fire to hurt the dinosaurs. The class told us that if the rock hit land then the volcano would erupt but if it landed in water it would make big waves.

Theory 4: To The Moon
At the beginning of our project one of the students suggest that the dinosaurs didn’t die. Instead, they flew to the moon and became moonosaurs. Our final part of the project focused on the children discovering if it would be possible for a dinosaur to live on the moon. This part of our project was also used as a transition into our outer space project.

While testing the theory that the dinosaurs moved to the moon we asked the following questions: How would they get there? What do dinosaurs need to live? How is the moon different from Earth? What would the dinosaurs need to bring with them? All of our lessons during this portion of the project focused on asking the children to think deeper into each of these questions.

We concluded our project with the children presenting illustrations of why or why not dinosaurs could live on the moon. When the presentations were over, the class took a vote on which theory of the dinosaur disappearance was the best. In the end, our class concluded that a big rock hit the earth causing volcanoes to erupt and the dinosaurs to die.