Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Dinosaur Unit Completed!

It's been a few days, but we finally completed our dinosaur unit! After taking a few days off from dinosaur activities, we had to extend our 2 week unit to end today. It was great fun and the kids woke up every day asking what dinosaur craft we were going to do. I don't think they even knew that they were learning in the process!

We began our unit with a study of "long ago." We made a poster-sized mural depicting the landscape and studied several pictures from books in order to get the background just right. Every day we added a different dinosaur to our landscape and learned a little bit about that dinosaur as well. Another concept we studied was that of extinction and the different theories behind what actually happened to the dinosaurs. It was fun to chart all the plausible and not-so-plausible explanations as to why the dinosaurs disappeared. My favorite? "Aliens came and put a giant bag over the earth and all the dinosaurs suffocated." I guess we'll never know!

I loved that all the books we read together got the kids asking questions and wanting to learn more. We were able to head outside and compare the size of a 50 ft. diplodocus to the size of each one of us using paper chains that we made. We asked questions and made hypotheses; then we tested them. How many of us would it take to reach the top of the dinosaur? About 14.5 of Marco. If the dinosaur was lying down, how many steps would it take for us to walk from it's feet to it's head? 43 steps. Exactly what does 50 feet look like? Really big! It was lots of fun! And the best part is that all the kids got involved, not just Marco; Isabella was learning right there with him and even Anthony got a good lesson in listening during reading time and following directions!

Our other favorite activities? Dressing up as paleontologists and then looking for fossils through the sand. They learned how to carefully use brushes to dust fossils off (chicken bones) and how to transport them to a museum. We also had a dinosaur hunt through the house where we followed the dinosaur tracks to a big pile of bones (made of paper). After finding them, they had to figure out how to glue them together to make a dinosaur. The list goes on and on. All the paper crafts went into the dinosaur folder and all the other big stuff got put up around the room. It will be a little sad for them to have to take it down this weekend.

As we reviewed all that we learned today, I realized how much kids can retain when you use playtime as learning time. I'm already looking forward to setting up another unit study for them. So far the contenders are horses and cowboys. But for now I'm not sure since we'll be busy preparing for the beginning of our new curriculum with MFW.

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