Dinosaurs: Facts vs process

toy dinosaurs

We, at Little Scientists, don’t usually deal with facts. Yep, that could be phrased better. We train educators in STEM subjects by helping them spot the everyday STEM opportunities that arise in their service, school or setting, and then, show them how to get the most learning out of the situation through inquiry-based, co-constructive techniques.

In your everyday practice, this means that if you spot an orange, you squeeze it rather than learn all about the orange. And it doesn’t matter that you were on the way to the apple tree when the children spotted the orange.

The point is that if someone asks you a question and you teach them a process to find out the answer themselves, they are then equipped to go ahead and apply that process to other situations. Whereas if you just give them the answer, they will be back asking you more questions soon.

Which brings me nicely to … dinosaurs. Children’s questions about dinosaurs are invariably fact-based questions. What’s the biggest dinosaur? Fastest dinosaur? Your favourite dinosaur? What’s the most dangerous dinosaur? However, this is not a problem as there are some wonderful ways of dealing with facts that can extend children’s knowledge beyond the mere fact and lead towards an investigation.

Let’s imagine a child asks you, “What’s the biggest dinosaur?” Rather than looking up the fact, you could start a discussion about what ‘biggest’ actually means? Is the dinosaur bigger because they are taller or bulkier or longer? Don’t forget that we are talking about a species that is on all fours so length could easily be a factor here. Are we talking the biggest carnivore or herbivore? Did you know that the answer to this question could change? This is the most accurate answer I can give to this BUT …. new discoveries are made all the time and we might find a dinosaur next month that is even bigger.

We can also help put this is context. The dinosaur is …… metres tall. Here is its footprint. Do you think it could step over something the height of a car, you, a house? How much do you think it could eat? If you were that tall how much would you eat? How many times can you fit into that height? Maybe it would help to imagine how high or wide the dinosaur was if we measured it in the outside area, playground or park.

AND remember. The blue whale is bigger than any dinosaur we have ever found. Why? Remember, dinosaurs are land animals. Why can the blue whale grow so big? There is a great investigation on our website that might help.

The most dangerous dinosaur? Well, the most dangerous animal could be the mosquito because it kills more people than a lion does. The fastest dinosaur? Well, a peregrine falcon is the fastest animal we know of. By the way, pterodactyls, not a dinosaur. Dinosaurs are land-based, remember? And also remember, it’s ok not to know the answer. Having a technique or a process to find out the answer is always a better option! Although I do have a favourite dinosaur. It’s the stegosaurus. But again, as I find out more, that might change too.

Hayley Bates
Article author: Hayley Bates
National Certifications Coordinator

This passionate mathematician and former science teacher will inspire you with her enthusiasm for inquiry-based learning and her determination to provide high-quality hands-on and fun professional development.

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