Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Dinosaur Museum Project: Kids Are Capable of Doing Amazing Things

After exploring dinosaurs for a while, the kids have decided on a project to turn our room into a dinosaur museum to teach other classes all about dinosaurs.  We came up with a driving question for our project. 


The kids brainstormed areas that our museum would need.  They felt that others needed to know about dinosaurs, what the dinosaur's habitat was like, fossils, and where dinosaurs lived in the world. They felt you couldn't have a dinosaur museum without a dinosaur skeleton! A small group who was interested in volcanos insisted our museum also needed a volcano since they were more active when the dinosaurs were alive. The  kids signed up to become experts and create each area.  These are the expert groups. They will each become experts in their area and present what they learn to the rest of the class, other classes, and parents.


We started out by learning all about paleontology and what a paleontologist does. When a video told them paleontologists were scientists who were experts on dinosaurs and other things that lived long ago, they came to the conclusion that we ourselves were paleontologists! I heard a lot of "Hey! We do that," "That's just like us," and "We are paleontologists!" 

The Habitat Team wanted to create a Jurassic Park to show a dinosaur habitat. The first step was to research to find out what dinosaurs needed in their habitat to survive and come up with a plan. 


They found out that all living things need a habitat and that a habitat needs to provide water, food and shelter for living things to survive. Later, as they researched they realized they needed to add air! I had refrained from telling them this as I wanted them to discover it on their own. This helped us learn about what living things need and the difference between living and non-living things. Both are in our science standards. 


They decided to create a Jurassic Park Habitat. They wanted to create a waterfall and lake for water, trees for shelter to hide in and food for the plant eaters, and a cave for more shelter.  After expert teams meet, they report what they found out to the class and tell them about their plan.


They created trees and collected plants for air, food, and protection for the dinosaurs. 


They created a water source for the habitat. I found an old room decoration in my closet and thought it would add some water-like quality to the paper. They loved it. 


They also came up with the idea that they needed rocks because waterfalls and lakes had to have rocks! As some friends were putting up the waterfall, others were working together to count all the rocks. They counted over 80 of them!


They added caves for shelter for dinosaurs to hide in if they needed protection from meat eaters or weather. They said the trees also provided shelter and protection because the dinosaurs could camouflage and hide in them. A Jurassic Park sign had been painted earlier during our exploration. 
They labeled the important parts of the habitat and created an informational poster to show museum visitors what a habitat needs to have for living things to survive. 


Here is their Jurrasic Park Habitat! They love to play in it!


The volcano experts met and researched volcanoes.


As they researched they drew what they noticed about what the outside of a volcano would look like. 

They decided to build a large model of a volcano and a working volcano museum visitors could experiment with.  Below they are using collaboration skills and problem solving skills as they figure out how to make a sturdy, cone shaped frame for their volcano. These were packing boards from an oven we bought a couple years ago. As you see, I literally save everything for the remote possibility they could be used for projects. 



After a lot of manuvering, they were able to get the volcano to look like they wanted it to! I found some fabric toole from a past project and they thought it would make the perfect ash cloud! They tucked it in and I attached it up high for them. They were very happy with the result!


Next they created working volcanos to model how they erupt. They used plasticine and a small cap to make the volcanos.  They had to test them to make sure they would work. They figured out the minimum measurements of vinegar and baking soda they could use. 



They set it up in our dramatic play area so that visitors can explore. 


They created an informational poster to show the inside of a volcano and how they work!




Here is their finished volcano exhibit!


The Fossil Team did some research to see what kind of fossils there were. After researching, they used clay and objects to create some fossils for our museum. 




They organized their fossils along with some real fossils for display and put some in the Dino Dig area for visitors to find. 


They labeled some fossils and created an informational posters telling visitors what fossils are and how they were made.



The kids thought that we needed a map that would show where dinosaurs lived. I drew the outline for them. I found a watercolor canvas on sale and thought we could use that since these kids love art and painting so much! I made the outline of the map for them with a fine point permanent marker. 


The map team painted the map with liquid watercolor. They chose great and yellow for the land, and blue for the water.


The finished world map is so beautiful that I think it will be a permanent addition to my classroom environment! 


The next step was to research where dinosaur fossils had been found! We printed off the pictures, labeled the names of the dinosaurs and taped them onto the correct place on the map using a book we found for a resource.


Here is the Map Team's finished exhibit!




Every museum needs a giant dinosaur skeleton, right? The skeleton team decided on a Tyronasaurus Rex and they wanted it to be huge! I outlined the body of a T-Rex as a guide for them and put a picture of a T-Rex skeleton on the promethium board for them to refer to. They laid down some paper tubes so we know how many tubes we had to paint and painted all of the tubes white. We used gift wrapping tubes for the spine.


After they painted them, they glued them onto our background. I called them over two or three at a time for this part. I had found some packing peanuts in my basement that worked out perfectly to give the skull more of a three dimentional look.


They labeled some parts of the skeleton, wrote some things that the skeleton tells us about the Tyronasaurus Rex, and wrote an informational piece about what a Paleontologist does. I think their finished product is magnificent! 


Our Dinosaur Expert Team created an area where they would be available to answer any questions about dinosaurs. They each picked a dinosaur to research and created an informational poster about it. 



They collected dinosaur books and laid them out for visitors and made a sorting game where visitors could sort meat eaters from plant eaters. 




Some kids made posters advertising our museum so that people would come to visit. 




After they were all hung up, we received this note from Mrs. Hopeless class! They were so excited to read it! 


We created invitations to invite our parents to come on the last day of our exhibit. 


The kids practiced what hey we're going to say about their exhibit and then we invited other classes to come visit. 


Finally, after all the preparation, we were ready for our grand opening!


Some kids came up with the idea of having a ribbon cutting ceremony so we let our first visitors cut the ribbon. There is a cute video of it on Instagram!


We divided the classes that visited into 6 groups and they did a rotation to all of the exhibits. That means they will be doing their presentation SIX TIMES for every class! This was very hard work! After the first day, they were exhausted! 








After the first visitors we gathered and reflected on how it went.  We had quite a few problems that we had to problem solve together, but they did a great job being honest with themselves and after that, it was smooth sailing!

We had other visitors besides other classes! Our Superintendent who is trying to get PBL district wide came to visit! Also the school nurse brought up some nursing students, and a science teacher from the Jr. High came in to see what they had done! The kids felt so important with all these adults desiring to see their museum also!



At the end of the week, our parents came and got to see all of the hard work they had done! I was so proud of these kids! They worked hard and took pride in their work! The kids couldn't wait to share all they had accomplished! They totally used 21st Century Skills all through this project! They collaborated, problem solved, came up with creative ideas and had to use critical and creative thinking skills. They practiced social skills as they has to respect other members of their team as they presented. They had to be patient as they waited their turn. They had to practice their lines by reading note cards that were a very difficult reading level but they did it! They had to be persistent and not give up when things got hard...and things got hard a lot! This just shows that children are capable of amazing things when they are given the opportunity to do them! Children are often underestimated about what they have the ability to achieve. One of our class mantras is, "We can do hard things!" And they do! 

After 14 presentations, (which means these kids had to do their part 63 times!!!) the museum will finally close! We will celebrate by relaxing and watching "Land Before Time" and munching on some popcorn as I start thinking about their next adventure as we follow their newest interest....








30 comments:

  1. This is absolutely amazing. You are such an inspiring educator. I am only 1 year into my teaching career but my dream is to teach Kindergarten one day. I hope to be as creative and supportive of learning as you are.

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    1. Thank you so much Mariah! Enjoy your journey!
      Sincerely,
      Darla

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  2. This is wonderful - I can easily see all the amazing learning the children came away with from this project! Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Love love love! -The Kindergarten Experience-Az, Marissa Calderon

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  4. I would love to come and observe your classroom someday! Truly inspiring!

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    1. Thank you! Anytime Chris! I would love that!
      Sincerely,
      Darla

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  5. Awesome! Inspiring! Love the little kids' dedication and hard work. Thank you for sharing.

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  6. This is wonderful! Could you explain the logistics behind it a little? Did you work with one group at a time while the others were at centers? How long did it take to get it all together? Thx!

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    1. Mrs. Myers, your work is so inspiring! I'm a fairly new teacher who really wants to start PBL in my classroom, but have the same questions as Susan regarding logistics. How do you do it?!

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    2. The whole thing probably took about 6 weeks. I have two large blocks of time for play based learning to take place. I usually pull kids out, one group at a time during this time to work on projects. In the past I have had full time help in the room and that makes it much easier as one of us could roam the room while the other worked with expert groups. Doing it by myself was much harder but we were still able to do it! I don't know if we will be able to do another large scale project like this during this school year without extra help, but we will see! Now that the kids have done one, they are already planning he next one so I may not have a choice. Also, since it is the last quarter, they are much more independent so we will see! During their play I have lots of experiences for them to choose from. Blocks, Legos, Loose Parts, Dramatic Play, Painting, Clay, Library, Literacy and Math tools, etc. Many of the experiences are set up in a way that connects the materials to the inquiry, but not all! Good luck! Let me know if you have any more questions!
      Sincerely,
      Darla

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  7. Amazing!! I'm working hard to become a PBL classroom and, through blogs like your's, have found a lot of inspiration. My class recently did a Hawaii Museum Project for our parents and school. While I'm proud of it, I see that there were many times that it could've been even more student led and we could have used more small groups. Thanks for challenging me, I really appreciate it. Blessings!

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    1. Thank you!! That is totally what my learning journey has looked like! Inspiration from amazing teachers who share their ideas and reflecting on each inquiry/project and learning from it to do the next one even better! Good luck on your journey!
      Sincerely,
      Darla

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  8. Hi!
    I'm a Spanish teacher, and I really like your blog because that's exactly the way I want to work in my school. Hard work here because in my country the Education System is very closed-minded. Congratulations for the great dinosaur project. Your blog is really inspiring!

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    1. Thank you Ana! It is so hard when your Education System is closed-minded! Start small and work toward bigger projects as they see that your kids are still learning what they need through the inquiries and projects. They don't have to be huge projects. It could start as a science center hat they visit! Good luck on your learning journey!
      Sincerely,
      Darla

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  9. Love this! Your kinders works so hard and did such a good job on their museum! My students this year have done inquiry units on both rocks and volcanoes. They've started on Dinosaurs which I was going to finish off with a trip to the Nature Museum. I wonder if this kind of project would spark with them.

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    1. Thank you! It was a lot of work to do such a large scale project but totally worth it when I saw how proud the kids were of all that they did! Good luck!
      Sincerely,
      Darla

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  10. I am a new kindergarten and 4k teacher and I have been researching project based learning and your blog is an inspiration of what I would LOVE my classroom to look like once I get more comfortable with PBLs in the next few years! I will be visiting your blog quite often over the next few months as I plan my next year adventures! I can't wait! Thank you for the wonderful ideas, do you sell anythink on TPT or have any helpful tips for beginning to implement PBLs?

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    1. Hi Heidi! I do not have a TPT store. I try to share everything I make for free and the kids use blank paper for most of what they do! Start out small with PBL. My first one was Weather. It wasn't a student led interest but one I knew most kids enjoyed learning about. When I reflected on it, I realized that I would do many things different the next time. Each time I do one, I reflect on it and learn from it so the next one will be even better for the kids. It has been quite a learning journey for me e past 6 years, but a fun one! Good luck on your journey!
      Sincerely,
      Darla

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  11. Hi Darla!
    Wow! What an amazing learning opportunity for your students:)!!! I have been following your blog for a long time and am always so inspired by the work that you are doing:) I am a huge fan of Reggio and am desperately trying to implement PBL in my kindergarten classroom. I am up in the Cleveland area and would love to have an opportunity to visit your classroom to see PBL in "action"...would this be a possibility? My principal has given his blessings to me for taking the initiative to move toward PBL:) Thank you so much for all that you do and for considering my request for a visit:)

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    1. Hi KK!
      I would love for you to visit! We are just starting to explore a new interest in space. Let me know what date works for you!
      Sincerely,
      Darla

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    2. Hi Darla!
      I am so excited:) Are there any days/dates that would work best for you? How would I go about setting up a visit? Do you have a school email that can be used for correspondence? Thank you!!!:)

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    3. Hi KK!
      I am so sorry that I dropped the ball on this! The last quarter was very hectic as my son was a senior so graduating and dealing with college, etc. took up every bit of my extra time! If you would still like to visit during the next school year, I would be happy to have you come! I love meeting other teachers with the same passion for inquiry! Whenever you want to visit me, just email me at dmyerspa@gmail.com! My principal lets me set up any visitors to my classroom myself and always allows visitors to come see me! I hope we get to meet!
      Sincerely,
      Darla

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  12. Hi Darla!
    No worries AT ALL!!! I wish I would have thought about it sooner...the last quarter is ALWAYS crazy busy with our kinders, then add in our families...YIKES:) I am blessed to have an understanding family who loves me and wonderful students/families who are understanding as well:)
    I would still love to visit your classroom and will definitely try for an earlier time! I think what you are doing and how you are doing it is so important to share with other early childhood educators. I am still working toward a better inquiry experience for my kinders:)
    Thank you again for all that you do:) You are inspiring many!!!

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    1. Awesome! Just get in touch with me whenever you are ready to visit! My email is dmyerspa@gmail.com. I look forward to meeting you!

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  13. I had a chance to go through your blog as my son.is showING interest in dinosaur and fossils. This article has given me so many ideas and has been truly inspirational. However, we are in a home set up so we would try small. What are the resources I could study to understand more about pbl for home setting.

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    1. Hi Savitha!
      Thank you! You can use many of the invitations or provocations similar to what I set up and so smaller scale projects based on what your son is most interested in. If you google "Reggio Inspired Home school ideas" you will find many resources in the way of blogs and pinterest boards! If you have an instagram account, I follow many home school teachers along with great pbl classrooms! My username is darlamyersclass. Good luck!
      Sincerely,
      Darla Myers

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  14. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS! WOW! SO AMAZING!
    I really want to try to have my class do this for our dinosaur unit! Can you answer some basic questions for me?
    How long did it take you? Where did you get the resources (books, websites, etc) so that they are on their level? How much support did you need to provide to them?

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! This inquiry took about 6 weeks including inquiry, project, and presenting to other classes and parents. It was one of our longer investigations! The library has a ton of dinosaur books for their level! They love them! On youtube, I just searched "dinosaurs for kids" and found some good videos! I worked with each group as they came up with ideas and gathered materials for them. For the volcano, I had to hold the frame together while they wrapped the twine and masking tape to create a teepee frame. For the skeleton, I drew the outline and had a picture of a t-rex skeleton on the smart board for them to look at. I had to work with each group and gather all the materials for them, but they came up with the ideas and put them together. I was just there to help and guide!
      Sincerely,
      Darla Myers

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