I have always been fascinated by dinosaurs. In fact I am one of millions who has. Somehow they have captured our imaginations. I used to say in the days when I taught in a “topic based” system that there were two certain topics that would be bound to capture the imaginations of the children… one was dinosaurs and the other was volcanoes.
But the days of making topic books and creating wonderful “topic webs” passed, as indeed did the age of the dinosaurs. Here in Britain we had QCA (The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority) proscribe what our children had to learn in technology, in science, in history and dinosaurs had disappeared.
A few days ago I received a Tweet with a link to something called “The Four Winged Dinosaur”. The very idea of a dinosaur with four wings really appealed to my imagination and so I followed the link.
The video above was a PBS production and I have to say that I found it fascinating. It explored the evidence of the find of a fossil of a four-winged ancient animal in China. Was this a dinosaur? How did it fly? Or was it a relative of the dinosaurs closer to the modern day crocodile?
We knew it had feathers as these were very clearly seen on the fossilised remains. The programme showed us a number of learned paleontologists arguing about their theories of what kind of animal this was and how it flew. Eventually they used one of the world’s leading wind tunnels to test the aerodynamics of four-winged flight.
As the programme continued I could see just how much learning could come from it. There was biology, physics, computer science, mathematics, design… all of these subjects inter-related and made real from being part of a fascinating investigation. There was collaboration by the scientists as well as argument that showed that there is often no definitive answer to what something is or how it works.
I would guarantee that children of all ages would get a lot from looking at the programme. I would not test them on what it found out… or who were the Professors involved. I would let them write, or draw or discuss and maybe investigate or research because there are so many possibilities that come from this brilliantly filmed programme.
This shows the strength of real Project Based learning. It should come from the interests of the children and I can assure you that if they are really interested they will learn… and there is nothing quite as interesting to us humans as dinosaurs.
I will leave you with one fascinating idea that came from the programme..almost as a throw-away line. Did Tyrannosaurus Rex have feathers? Now there’s a concept to get the mental faculties working overtime!