In Our Classrooms: Learning about Dinosaurs with Pre-K

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Making dinosaur fossils out of clay.

Our dinosaur study at Day Early Learning Lilly Family Center began in mid-March after Ms. Nikkia noticed that many children were checking out books about dinosaurs from the bookmobile each week.    She added toy dinosaurs to the block center and more dinosaur books to our classroom library.   The children immediately began using the materials during pretend play and asking the teachers to read the dinosaur books aloud.

A survey of the children revealed that most of them would be happy to see dinosaurs return.

We decided to use the children’s interest to develop an in-depth study of dinosaurs.  We began with a KWL chart.  The children told me facts they know about dinosaurs and we wrote their statements under the K (for “what we know“).  The statements may or may not be true.  We use the children’s prior knowledge or misconceptions as a starting point for our study.  For example, the children disagreed whether dinosaurs were real or pretend.  We used this conflict as one of our research questions to fill in the chart under W (for “what we want to know“).  The children added other questions to this section the study progressed.  Finally, through activities and books, we learned many facts about dinosaurs.  We wrote the information we learned under the L section of our chart.  We did learn that dinosaurs were real and we know because scientists have found and studied dinosaur fossils.


Digging for dinosaurs.

The children were very interested in fossils.  We created a dinosaur digging area in the sensory table and the children buried the dinosaurs and pretended to dig up the fossils.  We also used clay to create dinosaur imprint fossils.   The children were fascinated by the dinosaur skeletons shown in our books, so we traced and drew dinosaur skeletons. After a discussion about the dinosaurs becoming extinct, one of the boys was playing in sensory table and said, “I am going to make a safe home for the dinosaurs so they will not be extinct.”

We read The Magic School Bus and the Age of the Dinosaurs.    We asked the children to tell us whether or not they would like the dinosaurs to come back.  We also asked the children to explain why or why not.


Building dinosaur homes to protect them from extinction.

The children made detailed observational drawings of our toy dinosaurs with pencils.   They paid attention to the body parts, lines and shapes of the dinosaurs’ bodies.   We decided to make clay sculptures of dinosaurs using a toy dinosaur for reference.  The children began with one body part – most children began shaping the tail first.  Before we painted our sculptures, we decided to research the color of real dinosaurs.  We learned that scientists have not been able to learn the color of the dinosaurs from the fossils, so we decided to paint our dinosaurs any color we wanted.

We used the bulletin board in the hall to display our dinosaur study documentation with everyone, so stop by to see our masterpieces!

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