With the introduction of the Creative Curriculum within the UK, and giving teachers and administrators the opportunity to be more flexible in the delivery of core teaching programmes, new opportunities have arisen to motivate and enthuse young people, particularly when it comes to scientific subjects. After all, one of the main goals of this new development is to help young people, in fact students of all ages from Reception/Foundation up to Key Stage 4, to gain capacity for original ideas and actions. Indeed, to help students learn about science, environment and other related science subjects such as mathematics; Through exploration and personal inquiry.
Creative curriculum and teaching science subjects
In our experience the creative approach allowed us as teachers to act as facilitators of learning, we found that greater flexibility in being able to teach core subjects and National Curriculum principles was a very positive experience for both the teachers delivering the lessons and the pupils as well.
Being more creative has led to many of our old lesson plans and action plans being abandoned. Others have been modified and adapted to make them work in the context of greater educational freedoms. In particular, the ability to introduce new term topics such as the study of dinosaurs has brought real benefits to the delivery of teaching programmes.
While we accept that modification of existing lesson plans, topics and work plans may have resulted in more work at the inception of this new style of teaching, the results have more than compensated for this with a more motivated and enthusiastic group of students, who seem genuinely capable of applying key skills and demonstrating learning.
Why choose dinosaurs?
Choosing to study dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals as part of a themed subject for a semester or part of a semester is a really good idea in our opinion. First, most children go through a phase of being fascinated by these prehistoric creatures, and this will ensure they are ready to participate in the lessons and activities. Second, these days dinosaurs are rarely out of media with TV shows, cartoons, and movies, so most kids are familiar with them and already have some knowledge. Perhaps, most important of all, the topic of dinosaurs or more accurately the study of the order of reptiles known as Dinosaurs provides enormous scope for developing a range of exciting lesson plans across a range of areas.
Subject areas that can be covered include science, mathematics and geography but also with some creative thinking and diverse teaching areas such as music, physical education and dance. For example, using the subject of dinosaurs in a classroom topic gives teachers the opportunity to explore topics such as changing environments and extinction. In bringing such a blueprint to work, we combined many different areas all loosely based on the mass extinction event that occurred 65 million years ago that led to the death of the dinosaurs. Areas of science can be covered by exploring the possible causes of the extinction event, the collapse of food webs, the impact of volcanoes and climate change. This can allow teachers to explore current topics and issues related to subject areas such as global warming and the impact of human population growth on the planet. Through creativity, the idea of extinction can be applied in other areas such as composing a piece of music to reflect the change and death of an entire group of prehistoric animals. This allows teachers to take advantage of the pupils’ other learning styles. With music and movement in mind, we helped create dance lessons where pupils try to interpret the death of dinosaurs through creative dance and other performance work.
Most children have some knowledge of dinosaurs, in fact, in our experience, there is usually at least one very knowledgeable person in the class, perhaps a young budding paleontologist who can be drawn upon to help spark enthusiasm and inform on the subject area. Wanting to encourage independent learning, we hung a clothesline complete with pegs across the classroom. Then we asked the pupils (in this case the second primary students) to think of questions about dinosaurs and write them on a piece of paper with their names on it. We then examined and grouped the questions asked (another useful exercise involving word association and spatial awareness). Once the question areas were assembled, teams were selected and each team given the task of researching a question and reporting their findings to the rest of the class. This encouraged independent problem-solving and research using a range of resources, then each team gave a presentation to their classmates and wrote their findings to display on the ‘resource wall’ we created to help design the room for the dinosaur theme.
As teachers, we found introducing a topic related to dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals fun to teach and found our curiosity and interest sparked. There were certainly several major benefits of putting dinosaurs in the classroom, here is a summary of the benefits we found:
1). Pupils were more involved in their learning and took more responsibility for their own learning. There was a real sense of ownership when teaching this subject. For example, feeling pride in designing their own prehistoric animal, determining where it lived, what it ate, and what name it should have.
2). Students were more excited about their fields of study and there was more motivation. For example, exploring the concept of averages with a third stage master class by using some dinosaur footprints to create a path and measure the average distance between steps.
3). As educators, we were also more enthusiastic and enthusiastic about the topic of dinosaurs. It was a ‘fun’ aspect of the curriculum and it was even more rewarding and personally satisfying to see how the children respond to the more creative teaching methods used.
4). Greater parental involvement. One of the unexpected benefits of teaching about dinosaurs was the greater interest shown by parents and guardians. It also seems that adults are also fascinated by dinosaurs, we encouraged children to talk about dinosaurs with their parents and guardians when they are at home and we saw a significant improvement in the attitude of many parents towards teaching when they began to see how creative we were in providing teaching plans and programs. One thing we recommend is to have ‘open afternoons’ to allow the pupils to show off their work and their studies on dinosaurs. We created a “mini-museum” that shows the work and experiments done by the children. This was very well received by the parents and guardians who attended.
It is definitely recommended to bring dinosaurs to schools. It enables teachers and educators to benefit from pupils’ enthusiasm, stimulates learning and provides a rich environment for lesson development and learning. We learned some things ourselves – definitely recommend.