Imagine living hundreds of millions years ago during the age of dinosaurs. Many children go through a dinosaur phase and they become little dino-experts, twisting their tongues when they try to learn the often long and complicated names like Triceratops and Tyrannosaurs Rex. This diverse group of animals first appears during the Triassic period, over 230 million years ago, and dinosaurs themes are popular in kindergarten as well as in primary schools.
Playing Dinosaur detective is an opportunity to combine children’s curiosity with their love of this large separate group of reptiles. You can make a real display using toy dinosaurs. And you can make different evidence out of clay or play-doh, for example, teeth or fossils.
In the mind map below, we explore dinosaur food. Dinosaurs ate may different things such as grass, plants, eggs, meat, and even other dinosaurs. What proofs can we find that they actually ate these kinds of things?
We can look at the shape of their teeth and the way the teeth has been used.
- Meat-eaters usually have long, thin serrated teeth. Their teeth look almost like a dagger.
- Plant-eaters have peg-like teeth, leaf-shaped or serrated teeth.
- Plant-eaters teeth comes in a wide range of shapes.
Enchanted Learning has a great resource about dinosaur teeth. You can also find evidence by looking at bite marks that dinosaurs have made on other animals.
We can also search for evidence on:
- Gizzard stones
Fossil poo provides great evidence of the diet that dinosaurs had. Coprolite, or fossilised dung, does not smell but fossil poo can smell after thousands of years. The dung from the giant ground sloth that lived 15.000 years ago still smells.
Some dinosaurs used gizzard stones to grind food. Today, animals such as birds and crocodiles use gizzard stones to help them grind down hard foods. Gizzards stones have been found next to dinosaur skeletons.
Elasmosaur are marine creatures and relatives to dinosaurs. The skeleton of an elasmosuar named Dave have been found in Australia. It is believed that Dave swallowed stones not only to help him grind food but also to change the density – a way to influence the buoyancy in water.
When you are a detective you search for “As many as possible” explanations as you can and then you look at the evidence.
“As Many As Possible” is a great way to approach many problems. Opening up the thinking and then deciding which trail to follow may lead to a better decision than simply exploring the first thing that comes to mind. In the branch Think Dive, several ways that a detective work is written down, these will provide a guide for the search and scrutiny of the evidence. Then there is a branch for Diet and a branch where different ways to find proofs are explored.
A detective draws conclusions from the evidence that he or she has found. Can you decide what different dinosaurs diet consisted of and how you solved the mystery.
Often one mystery leads to another and we were a bit confused and excited about the gizzard stones. Birds have gizzards stones too and be have decided to follow this trail. . .
What new questions have you stumbled upon? How are you going to solve that mystery?