In May three of the Tumbler Ridge Elementary classes (Mrs. Bell ? Grade 4, Mrs Kennedy ? Grade 5 and Mr Greengrass ? Grade 6) visited the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery, not to learn about B.C.?s fossils, but to learn math lessons using real dinosaur data collected by the Museum Foundation / Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre?s scientists, Rich McCrea and Lisa Buckley. The math lessons were based on fossil footprint and trackways. Several lengthy clear plastic sheets bearing the traced trackways of several types of dinosaurs were laid on the floor. The children took a series of measurements such as footprint length and width, pace, stride and pace angulation, and filled in the data on the sheets provided by their teachers. The purpose of these exercises was to make scientific observations on the different types of gaits of animals including humans by looking at their tracks. By comparing their data the children had to determine whether the different dinosaurs had been walking or running.
This is the first time that the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery has been visited by a school group for a focused educational project. Though tourism is a very important aspect of the Gallery, the use of this facility for educational purposes is equally great and will likely be the strongest during the fall and winter seasons.
Over the past few years these scientists and staff have been involved in education on a local and regional scale, attending a variety of high school and elementary school science fairs in Fort St. John and Dawson Creek, giving talks in elementary schools, attending educational events hosted by the Northern Lights College in Fort St. John, library talks throughout the region, leading professional development days for School District 59 in Tumbler Ridge, and developing the concepts and curricula for the Dinosaur Camps and the Northern Wilderness Camps.
McCrea explained, ?Palaeontology in general and dinosaurs specifically are wonderful ambassadors for the natural sciences. Most children have an interest in dinosaurs and thus they are wonderful vehicles for getting children to learn things they might not be otherwise interested in.?
Mrs Kennedy commented: ?Our school district is currently working on making math more meaningful to students. We had a unique opportunity in our town to study both the dinosaurs and use our math problem solving skills to enhance our mathematics programs. Students learned about stride patterns in humans and then took their knowledge and applied it to the dinosaur trackways that have been discovered in our area. The learning experience was hands on and students found that all of their classroom skills could be applied in solving real problems. All of the students who attended were amazed at their level of understanding and were quite proud of their abilities. The museum staff were immensely helpful in working with us to create a unit that would challenge and intrigue young minds. Many thanks to Rich McCrea, Lisa Buckley and all of their staff for taking the time to incorporate children?s learning into the museum?s mandate.?
Mrs. Bell added: ?The kids in my class loved their trip to the museum. At first, they wanted some time just to look; the really cool exhibits caught their attention. Then it was time to set their brains to work. Having the footprints on the floor was a great hands-on type of activity. The kids had many questions for the friendly staff. In fact, the staff sat on the floor and helped the kids figure things out. Time passed too quickly, and before we knew it, we were saying goodbye. The kids all agree that they would love to go back. As a teacher, it was very rewarding to see students so actively engaged in their learning. They had a chance to see how math is used in the real world, and for them it helps to make their lessons more meaningful. They were excited to practice ?forensic math?.?
This is hopefully the first of many such co-operative educational opportunities between the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation and classes from School District 59. The official opening of the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery will be on the evening of June 27th. The TRMF educational programs, Dinosaur Camp, Northern Wilderness Camp, and Dinosaur Footprint Tours, continue through the summer ? call 242 3466 for details.