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The Dinosaur Museum Project: Kids Are Capable of Doing Amazing Things

Sunday, February 28, 2016

After exploring dinosaurs for a while, the kids have decided on a project to turn our room into a dinosaur museum to teach other classes all about dinosaurs.  We came up with a driving question for our project. 

The kids brainstormed areas that our museum would need.  They felt that others needed to know about dinosaurs, what the dinosaur's habitat was like, fossils, and where dinosaurs lived in the world. They felt you couldn't have a dinosaur museum without a dinosaur skeleton! A small group who was interested in volcanos insisted our museum also needed a volcano since they were more active when the dinosaurs were alive. The  kids signed up to become experts and create each area.  These are the expert groups. They will each become experts in their area and present what they learn to the rest of the class, other classes, and parents.

We started out by learning all about paleontology and what a paleontologist does. When a video told them paleontologists were scientists who were experts on dinosaurs and other things that lived long ago, they came to the conclusion that we ourselves were paleontologists! I heard a lot of "Hey! We do that," "That's just like us," and "We are paleontologists!" 

The Habitat Team wanted to create a Jurassic Park to show a dinosaur habitat. The first step was to research to find out what dinosaurs needed in their habitat to survive and come up with a plan. 

They found out that all living things need a habitat and that a habitat needs to provide water, food and shelter for living things to survive. Later, as they researched they realized they needed to add air! I had refrained from telling them this as I wanted them to discover it on their own. This helped us learn about what living things need and the difference between living and non-living things. Both are in our science standards. 

They decided to create a Jurassic Park Habitat. They wanted to create a waterfall and lake for water, trees for shelter to hide in and food for the plant eaters, and a cave for more shelter.  After expert teams meet, they report what they found out to the class and tell them about their plan.

They created trees and collected plants for air, food, and protection for the dinosaurs. 

They created a water source for the habitat. I found an old room decoration in my closet and thought it would add some water-like quality to the paper. They loved it. 

They also came up with the idea that they needed rocks because waterfalls and lakes had to have rocks! As some friends were putting up the waterfall, others were working together to count all the rocks. They counted over 80 of them!

They added caves for shelter for dinosaurs to hide in if they needed protection from meat eaters or weather. They said the trees also provided shelter and protection because the dinosaurs could camouflage and hide in them. A Jurassic Park sign had been painted earlier during our exploration. 
They labeled the important parts of the habitat and created an informational poster to show museum visitors what a habitat needs to have for living things to survive. 

Here is their Jurrasic Park Habitat! They love to play in it!

The volcano experts met and researched volcanoes.

As they researched they drew what they noticed about what the outside of a volcano would look like. 

They decided to build a large model of a volcano and a working volcano museum visitors could experiment with.  Below they are using collaboration skills and problem solving skills as they figure out how to make a sturdy, cone shaped frame for their volcano. These were packing boards from an oven we bought a couple years ago. As you see, I literally save everything for the remote possibility they could be used for projects. 

After a lot of manuvering, they were able to get the volcano to look like they wanted it to! I found some fabric toole from a past project and they thought it would make the perfect ash cloud! They tucked it in and I attached it up high for them. They were very happy with the result!

Next they created working volcanos to model how they erupt. They used plasticine and a small cap to make the volcanos.  They had to test them to make sure they would work. They figured out the minimum measurements of vinegar and baking soda they could use. 

They set it up in our dramatic play area so that visitors can explore. 

They created an informational poster to show the inside of a volcano and how they work!

Here is their finished volcano exhibit!

The Fossil Team did some research to see what kind of fossils there were. After researching, they used clay and objects to create some fossils for our museum. 

They organized their fossils along with some real fossils for display and put some in the Dino Dig area for visitors to find. 

They labeled some fossils and created an informational posters telling visitors what fossils are and how they were made.

The kids thought that we needed a map that would show where dinosaurs lived. I drew the outline for them. I found a watercolor canvas on sale and thought we could use that since these kids love art and painting so much! I made the outline of the map for them with a fine point permanent marker. 

The map team painted the map with liquid watercolor. They chose great and yellow for the land, and blue for the water.

The finished world map is so beautiful that I think it will be a permanent addition to my classroom environment! 

The next step was to research where dinosaur fossils had been found! We printed off the pictures, labeled the names of the dinosaurs and taped them onto the correct place on the map using a book we found for a resource.

Here is the Map Team's finished exhibit!

Every museum needs a giant dinosaur skeleton, right? The skeleton team decided on a Tyronasaurus Rex and they wanted it to be huge! I outlined the body of a T-Rex as a guide for them and put a picture of a T-Rex skeleton on the promethium board for them to refer to. They laid down some paper tubes so we know how many tubes we had to paint and painted all of the tubes white. We used gift wrapping tubes for the spine.

After they painted them, they glued them onto our background. I called them over two or three at a time for this part. I had found some packing peanuts in my basement that worked out perfectly to give the skull more of a three dimentional look.

They labeled some parts of the skeleton, wrote some things that the skeleton tells us about the Tyronasaurus Rex, and wrote an informational piece about what a Paleontologist does. I think their finished product is magnificent! 

Our Dinosaur Expert Team created an area where they would be available to answer any questions about dinosaurs. They each picked a dinosaur to research and created an informational poster about it. 

They collected dinosaur books and laid them out for visitors and made a sorting game where visitors could sort meat eaters from plant eaters. 

Some kids made posters advertising our museum so that people would come to visit. 

After they were all hung up, we received this note from Mrs. Hopeless class! They were so excited to read it! 

We created invitations to invite our parents to come on the last day of our exhibit. 

The kids practiced what hey we're going to say about their exhibit and then we invited other classes to come visit. 

Finally, after all the preparation, we were ready for our grand opening!

Some kids came up with the idea of having a ribbon cutting ceremony so we let our first visitors cut the ribbon. There is a cute video of it on Instagram!

We divided the classes that visited into 6 groups and they did a rotation to all of the exhibits. That means they will be doing their presentation SIX TIMES for every class! This was very hard work! After the first day, they were exhausted! 

After the first visitors we gathered and reflected on how it went.  We had quite a few problems that we had to problem solve together, but they did a great job being honest with themselves and after that, it was smooth sailing!

We had other visitors besides other classes! Our Superintendent who is trying to get PBL district wide came to visit! Also the school nurse brought up some nursing students, and a science teacher from the Jr. High came in to see what they had done! The kids felt so important with all these adults desiring to see their museum also!

At the end of the week, our parents came and got to see all of the hard work they had done! I was so proud of these kids! They worked hard and took pride in their work! The kids couldn't wait to share all they had accomplished! They totally used 21st Century Skills all through this project! They collaborated, problem solved, came up with creative ideas and had to use critical and creative thinking skills. They practiced social skills as they has to respect other members of their team as they presented. They had to be patient as they waited their turn. They had to practice their lines by reading note cards that were a very difficult reading level but they did it! They had to be persistent and not give up when things got hard...and things got hard a lot! This just shows that children are capable of amazing things when they are given the opportunity to do them! Children are often underestimated about what they have the ability to achieve. One of our class mantras is, "We can do hard things!" And they do! 

After 14 presentations, (which means these kids had to do their part 63 times!!!) the museum will finally close! We will celebrate by relaxing and watching "Land Before Time" and munching on some popcorn as I start thinking about their next adventure as we follow their newest interest....


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