Wednesday, June 1, 2011

We Dig Dinosaurs!


Fourth grade has spent a majority of the year working on geology in science lab. (Their classroom teachers have worked on the electricity and magnetism units.) After learning about tectonic plates, rock types, mountain building, earthquakes, volcanoes, and all things Earth, students went on three "archaeological digs."

I first got students used to gridding, recording, and studying their findings when I created a "dig site" in our stream table. I simply filled it with sand and attached measuring tape to the perimeter of the table. I showed students how to use a sieve to carefully sift through the sand without moving the artifact too far from its original location, grid it, use a microscope to observe it in more detail, and draw and write about it in their science journals.
The next week, I took students to the playground sandbox, where I had hidden all 30 pieces of the GeoSafari T-Rex Classroom Dinosaur Dig Kit underneath the carefully caution-tape gridded site. This time students used small shovels and paint brushes to uncover their findings. While waiting for a chance to dig, students took pictures with our digital cameras and recorded happenings or participated in interviews taped by fellow students with our camcorder.
I created two newspaper style articles and imported the pictures students had taken. It made for a great bulletin board and students were excited to create their own newspapers after their trip to Porricy Park, where they got to keep actual fossils they found in a stream bed.
 We were able to use the worksheets that came with the dino dig kit and to compare the human body to T-Rex, meeting content standards. Students couldn't wait to go home and play the dino dig games on my school website:
This is easily adapted for any grade level. Try this triceratops excavation kit, which is a bit more authentic than the one I used because students have to chisel through rock-like plaster instead of sand.

Check out my website for lesson plans, lab sheets, and more geology websites for teacher and student use.

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