Miss 5 and the Mesozoic

Last week Miss 5 announced that she was done with dinosaurs, for now, and she wanted to start working on The Ocean. More specifically the coral reefs. She has spent the last few days reading about, and watching documentaries on The Great Barrier Reef, coral reefs in general and coral bleaching. Her level of empathy is incredible, and a documentary on coral bleaching reduced her to tears. She is now determined to come up with some way to tell people about climate change, bleaching and the plight of our coral reefs. I have suggested she keep reading and try to think of some ways to get the word out. She has mentioned our facebook page as well as this blog, and I think I can feel another guest post coming. Watch this space 😊

In the meantime, since we’ve had a shift in her study unit, I figured I better write up on the dinosaurs and what she accomplished, before I get too far behind. As I’ve mentioned before, this is not the first time Miss 5 has had a thing for dinosaurs. At age 3 she developed a small obsession for them. It came out of the blue, and to this day I don’t know where the interest was born, it’s not as if Husband and I have prehistorical artefacts laying around the house! But she developed a thing for them and for a good 12 months it was all about the dinosaurs. During this time we amassed a collection of figurines, books, games, puzzles, toys, DVDs and iPad apps. So when she decided a couple of months ago that she wanted to pick up where she left off, I was elated. As a three year old, she learned a lot of dinosaur names, she learned the difference between a herbivore, carnivore and omnivore. She had learned about the three time periods of the Mesozoic (the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous). So this time around we concentrated on different classifications of dinosaur, on observing features of the dinosaur and using these observations to determine what group it belongs to, as well as touching on evolution and how animals (and people) evolve to suit their environment.

Miss 5 has learned that a “quadruped” is an animal that walks on 4 legs, and a “biped” is an animal that walks on 2 legs. She has spent time looking at teeth to determine if an animal is carnivorous or herbivorous. She has studied weaponry and defences of dinosaurs to determine if they are predators or prey, and she has practiced reading and writing the names of the dinosaurs as well.

I love it when the universe shares your rhythm, and provides you with everything you need. Only days after Miss 5 announced she wanted to revisit her prehistoric interests, I found an advertisement for the Perth Zoo. They had an exhibition of large animatronic dinosaurs, on the premises. So we went to the zoo for the day. Miss 5 picked up a map at the entrance and navigated the way to each dinosaur on display. The map had a checklist, which she used by matching the names of the dinosaurs on the sign at each stop, to a name on the list. Not “reading” per Se, but certainly letter recognition. She ticked off each dinosaur as we went, and told me what she knew or could hypothesise about each animal (side note; the word “hypothesis” has been in her vocabulary for a couple of years now, and it is not uncommon to hear her say “Mummy, I have a hypothesis”. So for me to use this word in my reports is perfectly natural, as she uses it more than I do 😀). There was a small group of school students walking with their teacher, and coincidentally walking the same route as us. Miss 5 was kind enough to help this (poor) teacher out, by letting her know that swimming and flying reptiles were not actually dinosaurs, and the pteranodon was actually classed as a pterosaur 😂. I was really impressed that she matched every name of every dinosaur on her list, and then read the map and navigated us around the zoo, using the map, without missing one.

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After our day at the zoo, I found an advertisement for the Explore-A-Saurus exhibition at Scitech. So off to Scitech we went, this time with a group of friends from our homeschooling community. The kids were able to see more animatronic dinosaurs, as well as casts of fossils, and plenty of interactive dinosaur-related activities.

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To support her learning, we learned the Dinosaur A to Z song from one of her favourite shows, Dinosaur Train. Not only did we all learn the words, but she did some copy work, copying down the names of the dinosaurs in her workbook, as well as making note of what they ate, how many legs the walked on, what classification of dinosaur it was and something interesting about it. Then we made some salt dough dinosaur fossils. She learned the difference between body and trace fossils, and made both (I did take a photo of these, but I can’t seem to find it. I’ll keep looking and update this post when I come across it). After the fossils were made, Miss 5 and Miss 3 had a little archaeological dig in the backyard. We also watched the documentary by David Attenborough, about the biggest dinosaur ever discovered.

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The highlight for me, was the day that Miss 5 invented her own dinosaur. She drew a picture of it, named it (and wrote the name down without any prompting), and told me all about this dinosaur, using all of the words, and knowledge that she had accumulated. “Bachosaurus” was a carnivorous theropod that lived on the east coast of Australia during the Cretaceous period. Bachosaurus was an ambush predator that hunted in packs, in order to pull down larger dinosaurs. His stripes were for camouflage as well as a way of identifying other Bachosaurs (much like Zebra stripes). Bachosaurus was primarily a nocturnal dinosaur, like a Troodon, but if food was scarce, it would hunt during the day also. 😀

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I must admit, I think, towards the end, that I was a little more excited about the dinosaur unit than Miss 5. I think I’ve developed a new interest too 😂 I do think, or at least I do hope, that dinosaurs will make another appearance in our “schooling”. It is something that Miss 5 has always been interested in and I would actually like to see her follow it up in coming years.
One thing that I’ve noticed over the last couple of months is that Miss 5 has started to both read and write. The reading has gone from being a chore that she wasn’t keen on and I didn’t want to push, to something that she is asking to do. The writing has come along in leaps and bounds and she is writing page long stories. It’s amazing watching the natural progression of her learning.

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