Just How Big Were The Dinosaurs?
"Mommy? Was the Apatosaurus bigger than our house?"
We were sitting around the table co-reading Dinosaur Roar together when my daughter stopped me with this question. Our project about Dinosaurs had been going for a couple of weeks now and the question of size was coming up a lot. I usually suffer from a compulsive need to finish things so putting down a book is hard, but the burning questions about size seemed more important, so I asked "How could we find out?"
"How Could We Find Out?" has become a constant question in our house since the "why" phase began. Around the time my twins turned 3 they began the endless parade of questions that has yet to slow down. In fact, as they have grown older their questions have only become more frequent and more complex. My goal is to lead them towards paths and resources to figure out answers on their own. They are only four so right now they often need some support, but today my son said "can we google it?"
After recovering from my surprise that he actually knew what "google it" meant, I agreed and we got out my tablet. After a lengthy discussion about how to spell Apatosaurous, we had our answer. The Apatosaurous grew to be 70-90 feet. This meant little to my kids, so the next day I decided to do a little measuring with them.
One of the most frequent questions I get is "What do you do during group time?" It varies greatly, but here is an example of a group time to explore just how big those dinosaurs really were.
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Group Time almost always begins with a story. I truly believe that reading aloud is the most important thing you can do for a child, so I make sure there are several opportunities during the day for reading. There are times that reading happens spontaneously, but building times into our day helps to ensure daily read alouds. Group time is one of those times in our house.
1. Read Aloud choice: I'm Big! by Kate and Jim McMullan (find online here) It is a playful story about an Apatosaurous that gets left behind by his herd. It is mostly silly and not particularly scientific, but I chose it because the book illustrates various ways that these large dinosaurs might have used their vast size to their benefit.
2. Discussion: After the story, I started the discussion by asking "What did you notice about the Apatosaurous?" From there a discussion of size, neck length and stretching, and other things began.
3. Re-introduction of Question: When there seemed to be a natural spot in the conversation, I reminded them of their question from the day before - Was an Apatosaurous bigger than our house? I asked if they were still interested in finding out. They were and thought we could find out by measuring.
4. Measuring Activity: Whether or not they would have come up with "measuring" on their own, I would have introduced the ruler. I went back and forth about this, because a ruler is a slightly ridiculous way to measure a house or a huge dinosaur. However, it seemed like a decent time to talk more about the fact that a ruler is one foot and to provide lots of practice for the technique of measuring longer things with a ruler.
Note: if this is your child's first time measuring something with a ruler - start with something significantly smaller. My preschoolers have already practiced using a ruler for measuring smaller things but I hadn't yet shown them what to do with a ruler if something is more than 12 inches long.
More Preschool Measuring Activities
I appologize for a lack of pictures, but it was difficult to manage while trying to teach them this skill.
After reminding them that the ruler is 12 inches and that equals 1 foot, we looked online at how long an Apatosaurous was (70-90 feet). Then we headed outside to find out what the length of our house was. We started at one end and then slowly worked our way across the house taking turns holding the spot for the end of the ruler with our pointer fingers and pointing together.
Answer: It turns out our house is about 50 feet long so the answer was YES! From reading the book I'm Big, we also knew that an Apatosaurous was 5 stories tall instead of our 2 stories.
W is for Whale from Preschool Powel Packets
Watermelon Seed Spitting Measurement Game from Schooling A Monkey
Measuring Distance with Water Guns from Teach Me Mommy
Measuring and Estimating with Ribbons from Mum in the Mad House
Grow a Duck Weighing Activity from Something 2 Offer
Measuring Toys from Play and Learn Every Day
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