Primary School Children Have Fun with Dinosaur Eggs

With the advent of a more creative curriculum in the United Kingdom, teachers and teaching assistants have more freedom in how they deliver lessons which dovetail into the teaching objectives and expected outcomes as provided in the framework of the national curriculum.  For children aged between five and seven years of age (primary school children in years 1 and 2), a suitable topic for the spring term might be “Dinosaurs”.  With the spring term ending at Easter, the addition of an imaginative series of lesson activities designed around looking at dinosaur eggs would help to tie in the term topic with the holiday period that comes immediately at the end of this term.

Dinosaur Nest

A dinosaur egg can be made very simply using a balloon and paper mache to create the desired effect.  A single, large egg can be created by the teacher and the teaching assistants or if school resources allow, the children themselves can have a go at making and painting their own paper mache dinosaur eggs.  Often the eggs that are made and represent a dinosaur egg are quite large, many people think that the dinosaurs hatched from huge eggs, this is not the case.

Although a number of dinosaur genera are known to have laid large eggs, most dinosaurs laid very much smaller eggs than most people imagine.  Egg size in egg-laying, terrestrial vertebrates is limited by a number of factors.  For example, the egg has to be strong enough to hold the volume of liquid that each one contains, but the egg shell cannot be too thick otherwise the baby inside would not be strong enough to break out of the egg (to hatch).

The largest dinosaur eggs known to science have been ascribed to a genus of titanosaurs (long-necked dinosaurs), which may have measured more than fifteen metres in length.  Even so the eggs of these prehistoric animals are about the same size as a football.

To read an article about the size of dinosaur eggs: The Big Eggs of a Dinosaur – Hypselosaurus.

When the egg has been made and painted, simply create a little nest for it, using leaves, twigs and such like.  If the class has a pet hamster or guinea pig, using some hay or straw that is normally reserved for this class pet also works well.   Then over the course of the spring team the children can observe their egg and record any differences in how it looks.  For example, once the egg has been put in the nest, take a picture of it and post it up on the class notice board.  Then after a week or so, turn the egg round in the nest and get the children to compare what they see with the earlier photograph.

A teacher can use this simple exercise to get children to think about what differences can they see and why might the differences have occurred?  What does it mean when the egg has moved, what may be going on inside the egg?

Over the next two weeks, the egg can be given a crack and the children made ready for the “hatching of their own dinosaur), again the change in the state of the egg can be used to encourage the children with a creative writing exercise as they compose short letters to their “baby dinosaur”.

A Typical Dinosaur Nest (Fossils)

Theropod nest model.

A replica of a typical theropod nest showing typical nest composition and layout.

Finally, the school day dawns (towards the end of the term topic) when the baby dinosaur hatches.  However, rather than have to go to the trouble of creating a baby dinosaur for the class, here is a simple tip for any teacher or teaching assistant, allow your dinosaur to escape.  To show the escape, simply break the egg open using a sharp pair of scissors before the children come in and ask the caretaker to move one of the ceiling tiles on the suspended ceiling (a feature of most classrooms).

The children can learn of their dinosaur’s escape into the roof space and the moved tile in the ceiling would be proof to them of the escape of their pet dinosaur.  The teacher can easily leave a trail of three-toed (tridactyl) dinosaur prints from the nest area to the floor immediately below the ceiling tile, creating a trail for the young pupils to follow.

Then it is simply a question of developing plenty of extension activities around the school’s pet dinosaur project.  For example, the children can be encouraged to draw what they think the dinosaur may have looked like, what name should it have been called and why?  In addition, the children can be asked to think up stories that they might want to read to the dinosaur, or to imagine the adventures that their escaped dinosaur might be having.

Such imaginative and creative ideas can help teachers and teaching assistants to develop interesting lesson plans that challenge pupils to observe, explore and ask questions about living things.   Reference materials can be used to find out what palaeontologists know about the fossilised eggs of dinosaurs.   As well as covering aspects of the science element of the national curriculum, cross curricula activities such as creative writing and grammar usage which relates to the objectives of the English element of teaching can be incorporated.

To learn more about Everything Dinosaur’s range of educational, dinosaur themed toys and games: Replica Fossils, Dinosaur Toys and Gifts.

Having your own dinosaur egg and watching the egg change and eventually hatch provides an excellent basis for the development of many enriching and challenging lesson ideas with key stage one children.

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