After what seems like quite an epic summer break (although, still not long enough to actually get everything done), the first session of the new school year gets built up in my mind to something akin to ‘D-Day’. For me, luckily, the D was for Dinosaurs.
On Thursday 17th September, I had my first sessions of the new school year. I had the absolute pleasure of working with two classes (Year 3 and 4) from Our Ladies of Good Help, who travelled all the way from Liverpool for our Dinosaur Detectives session.
Not only were the pupils well behaved and extremely bright, but I was really impressed with quite how good they were at being palaeontologists. I would like to warn all palaeontologists out there to keep an eye out for some of these pupils in the future; they’ll be after your job before you know it! The class teachers also deserve some praise – it is rare for children to have the skills to be able to identify what a rock is made of, let alone be able to identify it by name and tell me where it formed (as a geologist, this sort of experience is rare and worth mentioning!). Finally, the enthusiasm and involvement of the adult helpers who worked with the pupils during the session should also be acknowledged.
It’s all too easy to put a name to something, but it takes a little more skill and thought to ask why? ‘Because it looks like it’ is never a satisfactory answer for me. Some gentle persuasion will generally reveal that ‘looking like something’ is more complex that it may first appear, and that pupils have in fact only arrived at this conclusion after working through a series of observations and interpretations.
During the Dinosaur Detectives session, I encourage pupils to ‘think like a palaeontologist’ and explain that this is not about correct answers or facts; rather, that it is about being aware of their thought process; the questions and answers that they work through when they are interpreting fossils. I believe that this is a very valuable skill, and one that is all too often overlooked by the system that is more concerned with right and wrong answers.