Dinosaur Day

Story Time & Paleontology

Hands down, my favorite day of the year is dinosaur day. I’m like a giant kid when it comes to dinosaurs. I want to talk about paleontology, fossilization, and all the constantly updating factoids about our feathered, speckled and extinct friends, until I’m blue in the face. You know who also loves to do that? Kids. So I’m in the right field.

Research is continuously revealing information about what walked, swam and flew around earth so many millions of years ago (between 250-65 million years ago, to be exact) which makes teaching children about dinosaurs so exciting: what we learn today is always expanding, the information is never finite, and there is no end in sight about what we have yet to unveil about these creatures.

So how do we tackle such a huge subject in a 45-minute Story Time? It’s a practice in breaking off huge chunks of information and whittling it down into bite-sized curiosities. As always, our mission as educators, librarians, parents and caregivers is to keep kids curious.

Here’s a basic time line from Enchanted Learning that can be written up on a whiteboard for reference:

How I taught it: Take a page from Parenting Science and teach concepts, not statistics. I talked about what which dinosaurs ate meat (carnivores) and which ate plants (herbivores), and we compared sizes of dinosaurs by using our size vocabulary words: bigger, smaller, taller, wider, biggest, smallest, littlest, etc. Use really interesting and intricate illustrations to hold their attention and to really show them something real–like representations of fossils. A really kid-friendly explanation of fossil creation is on page 2 of my parent handout below.

Dinosaur Days Story Time Handout

Story Time: Dinosaurs and Bones from Samantha Colwell

Books To Read:

Explaining Extinction, Fossils & Paleontology

Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct by Mo Willems

  • Let’s be clear, Mo Willems is a literary hero AND he created Sheep in the Big City in the early 2000’s. Can’t go wrong with any of his masterpieces.
  • A great segue into discussing extinction and what it means for an animal to be extinct.

Tyrannosaurus Wrecks! by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen 

  • This book is colorful, catchy, with a clever rhyme scheme and a moral about forgiveness.
  • I love the chanting of Tyrannosaurus wrecks! every time the poor dinosaur demolishes his friends’ work.
  • Integrates the scientific names for dinosaurs

Dinosaur Bones by Bob Barner 

  • As far as non-fiction selections go, this takes the cake for its multiple levels of information.
  • An easy, paced read about dinosaur bones and excavation.
  • Select how in-depth you want the information to be or go for a story walk through the colorful, playful dinosaur images.

Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled: How do we know what the dinosaurs really looked like? by Catherine Thimmish 

  • Another charming non-fiction option that gives you different levels of information to use depending on what age group you’re working with.
  • Explores the work of the paleoartist, a very important and often overlooked title that helps us imagine what dinosaurs looked like through use of science.

 

 

Songs, Rhymes & Activities

Action Song: Dinosaur, Dinosaur from Storytime Katie
(To the tune of Teddy bear, Teddy bear, turn around)

Dinosaur, dinosaur, turn around
Dinosaur, dinosaur, touch the ground
Dinosaur, dinosaur, reach up high
Dinosaur, dinosaur, wink one eye
Dinosaur, dinosaur, touch your nose
Dinosaur, dinosaur, touch your toes
Dinosaur, dinosaur, slap your knees
Dinosaur, dinosaur, sit down please

Flannel Rhyme: 5 Enormous Dinosaurs from Sunflower Storytime 
Five enormous dinosaurs letting out a roar.
One stomped away (stomp, stomp, stomp stomp)
and then there were four.

Four enormous dinosaurs knocking down a tree. Clunk!
One stomped away (stomp, stomp, stomp stomp)
and then there were three.

Three enormous dinosaurs eating tiger stew. Ew!
One stomped away (stomp, stomp, stomp stomp)
and then there were were two.

Two enormous dinosaurs sitting under the sun.
One stomped away (stomp, stomp, stomp stomp)
and then there was one.

One enormous dinosaur having no fun.
He stomped away (stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp)
and then there were none!

Dinosaur Clips Exercise: Use clothespins and a dinosaur cut out to make a matching activity which pairs letter, number, shape and color recognition with fine motor skill practice. I drew the dinosaur outline and printed several out on thick card-stock paper. I was lucky enough to have dot stickers for the clothespins but you can use paper and tape as well.

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Make a Vowel-osaurus Rex!: I cut up shapes from various shades of green paper and drew some vowels on them. This is a pretty abstract one, but it’s simple and allows kids to recognize vowel letters and work with shapes at the same time.

Vowel-osaurus Rex

Fine Motor Skills Sensory Bin: Paleontology Practice! I used a regular plastic bin and a bag of sand, covering plastic figurine dinosaurs so that just enough of them were showing. For our paleontology tools we used little plastic paint brushes. The point of this task is that the kids have to harness their hang strength and wrist accuracy in order to lightly brush the sand off, when everything inside of them is shouting RIP THE DINOSAUR OUT OF THE SAND, HURRY! So keep them patient and moving their hands and wrists with purpose. Then, after their patience has been tried enough, let ’em rip the dinos out and see if they can guess which kind they found!

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Here’s a nifty little Boomerang video of some swiping action!

Helpful Links

What Are Fossils? with kidsdinos.com

Parenting Science: Teaching Paleontology 

Kids Science Careers – Sally Walker on Paleontology 

 

As always, keep kids curious! Send me a message or comment with your ideas & concerns for your next dinosaur day. 

 

Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett

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Feels like: When you forget your phone and have to spend hours in a room without a distraction from your own unraveling thoughts.

Song pairing: Avant Gardener by Courtney Barnett.

“Of course it’s expressive–what could be more arousing than inexplicable disdain my God.” 

There’s not much to say plot-wise about Claire-Louise Bennett’s Pond. I mean, there’s plenty to say, but there’s just so little semblance of a chronological or sensical plot that it’s fruitless to even attempt a review that’s not just a stream of consciousness.

An unnamed narrator spends two hundred pages regaling us with the infinitesimal details of her time spent in an Irish countryside cottage she’s renting for an undisclosed amount of time. She’s angry with the pointed, painful edges of Christmas holly, she’s transfixed by the wind of a violent storm while she reclines in a lukewarm bath, she’s describing a book she once read about a woman trapped in a sphere while the rest of the world is frozen in place and she must, alone, continue living with minimal resources and without hope (I made the Bell Jar connection here, but there’s plenty of more Plath evidence lying around). She write odes to chopping herbs, gets her hands dirty in the garden for the sake of the softness of soil, and muses about the unnecessary signage around the local pond, which declares “pond” like a vital warning, though the pond is too shallow to even wade in. Her thoughts are often hard to track as they divert to different constellations at every turn of the page. Her vocabulary is beautiful and disarming and she can describe anxiety with the precision of a scalpel.

Every time I think the author has lost me in another spiraling sort of tempest pout, she reels me back in with a sentence so imbued with emotional conscience I’m struck by the honesty of it and I imagine myself highlighting the sentence over and over again, repeating inside my own head “yes, yes, that’s it exactly, that’s how it feels, that’s how it looks.” The multitude of tiny little minutia that goes unnoticed, the myopic ways we bargain with ourselves, the human quirks we can mask by our incomparable ability to stay distracted.

If I were to read it again, I would try to do it in one sitting, as dipping in and out of the book made the lack of trajectory even more disorienting. But I loved it, I did. It’s so, so weird, and I love that I don’t recall the novel in words, but I see such vivid scenes when I think back on it.

Memorable Quotes (these are long, but too perfect to not include):

🌺  “English, strictly speaking, is not my first language. I haven’t yet discovered what my first language is so for the time being I use English words in order to say things. I expect I will always have to do it that way; regrettably I don’t think my first language can be written down at all. I’m not sure it can be made external you see. I think it has to stay where it is; simmering in the elastic gloom betwixt my flickering organs.” 🌺

🌸 “Then it occurred to me that perhaps I’d been terrified for longer than all day, and I had rather mixed feelings upon realizing that–I wasn’t much keen on the idea that I had been terrified for years, but it seemed possible… I was suspicious really and thought it best to not get too involved with any ideas that came about, after all, being terrified seems quite normal, one learns to live with it–possibly you forget, or it tilts. And then, from time to time, such as today, it reappears, just to remind you, perhaps, what you are living with, even if you almost always forget.” 🌸

🥀 “Didn’t I immediately discover that melancholia brought something out in me that felt more authentic and effortless than anything I’d previously alchemised.”🥀

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

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Feels like: Rehashing the folklore-like details of your hometown hauntings to friends of friends over late night drinks.

Song Pairing: Riverside by Agnes Obel

“Some say the women left something of themselves in the water; some say it retains some of their power, for ever since then it has drawn to its shores the unlucky, the desperate, the unhappy, the lost. They come here to swim with their sisters.” 

Danielle Abbott is an exotic, artistic, eccentric woman with a penchant for melancholic stories. Her and her sister, Julia, spent summers growing up by the Drowning Pool, a section of the town river which notoriously sucks troublesome women down to their watery graves. Intoxicated by the essence of Shakespearian tragedy that hovers like a palpitating fog over the body of water, Nell decides to write a novel about the haunting stories of murdered and suicidal women who have been claimed by the Drowning Pool. That is, until the Drowning Pool claims Nell.

There are a lot of players to this tale, each one affected in one way or another by the dismal reach of the tireless lake. Hawkins takes us rapidly from one mind to the next, so quickly that the beginning of the novel becomes a blur of motivations, suspicions, fears and horrifying bedtime stories.

Julia, Nell’s sister, hasn’t spoken to Nell in years because of perceived slights that come to light as the story progresses. She returns to town to take care of Nell’s daughter, Lena, who is a fearsome teenage girl hell-bent on keeping the secrets of the dead. Good guy cop Sean Townsend takes the lead in the investigation of Nell’s fated fall from the cliffside, while his wife Helen avoids his touch and sleeps in another room every night. Patrick Townsend, Sean’s father, is the grizzled former policeman whose wife was claimed by the same Drowning Pool years ago, when Sean was just a little boy who watched his own mother jump.

Louise lost her daughter, Katie, to the lake six months prior to Nell’s death. Katie was Lena’s best friend in the entire world, and Louise is convinced that Lena and her recently deceased mother know more than they’re letting on. In one of the most haunting and beautiful scenes I’ve had the pleasure of reading in a long time, Katie ends her young life by taking a walk to the lake at night. As she walked she gathered stones for her pockets and back pack, and didn’t stop walking when she reached the lakeside. Katie was a happy-go-lucky fifteen year old girl, so what drove her to suicide? The siren choir of the nameless women who were drowned in that same spot during the Salem-era witch scare? Louise won’t rest until she knows what took her daughter, so she can seek vengeance like only a mother can. Nickie, the town’s old eccentric psychic, knows the truth–but no one listens to the ravings of a madwoman.

It would be unfair for me to rate a novel like this, because it does me the great service of combining practically everything I like in this world: mystery, murder, witchcraft, troublesome women, haunted lakes, melancholic symbolism, and Shakespeare. All of this combined was bound to make me salivate all the way through the book, overlooking many of the problematic plot points (there are essentially two important plot lines happening at once, but their intersection is weak and they end up losing their potency by feeling like two separate novels) and extraneous characters (the character of outsider female cop Erin is supposed to provide a voice the reader can inhabit, but it’s unsuccessful because she’s so unimportant to the plot.)

The only problem Paula Hawkins ever has is editing. She could sheer off a lot of this novel and hammer it down to a concise, pristine, perfect little droplet of misery, but I’m almost glad she didn’t. It’s just as convoluted as the river that she describes with such daunting accuracy, making you feel like you’re channeling the ghostly voices of the long dead, that you’re in an old house sinking into the mud, tasting the silt in your mouth.

Paula Hawkins’ didn’t so much write a novel as she wove a tapestry to lay over Ophelia’s pallid face. As Hamlet stands down stage and spouts soliloquies, Ophelia slips away, weighs her body down in flowers and drowns herself to be rid of the torrid loneliness of a life without agency. Into the Water argues that perhaps Ophelia drowned because she loved Hamlet, not in spite of her love for Hamlet. Does love absolve us from being held accountable for the things we’ve done? One of the male characters plays the Hamlet (I won’t tell, but you’ll guess relatively quickly) and the question is posed, “wondering whether [he’d] managed to convince himself that being in love absolved him” from the terrible things he’d done. Too often, love is used as an excuse, as an easily justifiable madness.

But troublesome women do not need excuses, and neither does Ophelia.

Memorable Quotes:

“Well, her dancing days were over, but, pain or no pain, she decided she would make it to the river that night. She wanted to feel them up close, all those troublesome women, those troublesome girls, dangerous and vital. She wanted to feel their spirit, to bathe in it.”

 

Fractured by Catherine McKenzie

fractured-by-catherine-mckenzieFeels like: Passing notes back and forth to your friend in high school about how much you hate that “one girl.”

Song Pairing:I Still Wait For You” by XYLO

Nobody really likes Julie Prentice. At least that’s what it seems like to Julie Prentice. Best-selling author of the thrilling novel The Murder Game, she’s racking in the dollars and the fame, but along with all the accolades comes a psychotic former acquaintance turned stalker. Crazy Heather just won’t leave Julie alone, so Julie and her handsome husband and children pack up their life and move to the suburbs of Cincinnati.

Across the street lives a handsome man named John who immediately notices Julie. John’s got a lovely wife and two children, but boy does he seem unnaturally and electrically drawn to Julie. Their friendship causes a stir in the neighborhood and begins an onslaught of I Love Lucy-level accidents on Julie’s end. Julie feels as if she literally thinks negative things into happening–so much so that she’s alienating herself from the new neighborhood, pissing off the controlling PTA Neighborhood Watch mom Cindy, inspiring paranoia in John’s wife, all while still reeling from remnants of trauma her stalker Heather ingrained in her.

This novel wants to be fractured, but it’s more broken than that. There is a Thanksgiving-feast sized cornucopia of unmet expectations. The ending that McKenzie teases us with in time jumps between John and the impending doom of a court date, where we have to assume something incredibly tragic has happened that we won’t know until the very end, is not terribly unexpected or even interesting. It barely registers as a talking point.

What McKenzie does do is present us with some incredibly flawed characters that you actually like. Julie, in spite of her “I’m gorgeous, but broken, and super clumsy in an endearing way” trope feels like a fleshed out character, and I can see her as a real woman I know and can sympathize with. John is also subtly fleshed out, at once a protective father, a philandering husband, helplessly adrift in shades of grey, but entirely likable.

I didn’t miss the point of the novel here–secrets, secrets, secrets. I wanted to read Julie Prentice (Apple’s) novel The Murder Game more than Fractured; the novel that creates such turmoil in Julie’s life is also her catharsis. She knows that her and her college “friends”, a Cruel Intentions-inspired prep group indulging in sex and drugs to the fullest extent, were pretty alienating to outsiders like Heather. But their little think-tank game of “who would be the easiest to murder, and how would you do it?” might have gone too far. Julie wrote her novel from real life experience, and Heather knows the truth that Julie is suppressing. Sadly enough, this plot feels a distant second to the Cincinnati neighborhood blunders, the social missteps, the paranoia and the really, really obvious red herrings that McKenzie attempts to trick us with.

Memorable Quotes:

“Everyone’s life has its complications. Sometimes you get to choose them, and sometimes they’re thrust upon you. The trick is knowing which is which.”

“There are so many versions of the truth, I’ve found. One for each person. But the whole truth? No one ever tells the whole truth. Do they?”

Voting

Story Time & Political Science So, Josh and I had some pretty strong feelings about the election turn out this year. And it’s looking like most of America is feeling the same way. That fateful night some months ago we watched that little map on our television turn a bright blood red from one state to

Continue reading Voting