Homeschooling S.T.E.A.M.: Dinosaurs – Week 4

We’re heading toward the halfway point of our unit on dinosaurs. The kids are really getting into it, and, well, I am, too. I had no idea there was so much potential for learning in this theme!

We’re still in Guide to Dinosaurs, reading an average of eight to ten pages a week. This seems to be a pretty good rate of progress, as the kids are retaining much of it and nobody seems bored.

We had an interesting collection of books this week, all of which the kids enjoyed. I’ve never found a topic with such a huge volume of books available. It’s made this part of the curriculum planning so very easy!

  • Our semi-nonfiction title was Whatever Happened to the Dinosaurs? by Bernard Most. We talked about which of the possible explanations could actually make sense if approached logically. Surprisingly, some really did!
  • Jane Yolen’s How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? is one of my favorites, and since the kids own this one, they were able to read it along with me, which was fun.
  • Our first random pull was Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff, which is a classic for a reason.
  • We ended with Too Many Dinosaurs by Mercer Mayer, which is a silly little thing with great illustrations.

The project this time is a two week endeavor, since we have to incorporate drying time. We’re making fossil casts! This week we’ll be doing the pressing, and we’ll be painting and glazing once they’re all dry.

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Originally, I had planned to do this using salt dough. However, since there are severe gluten sensitivities in this household, the use of regular flour is out. And I tried to find a substitute, but, well, it just didn’t work. Rice flour made it too gritty and coconut flour came out like mashed potatoes. Actually, I’m thinking of using the coconut flour version for a sculpture project at some point. It would work wonderfully for that. But for impressing, well, it wasn’t happening. So I gave up and bought some air-dry clay.

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An easy to use white clay, Model Air Dry Modeling Clay cost less than ten dollars for a package, which was more than enough for the six of us. I’m calling that money well spent. I elected to just open up the package and have the kids pull off a handful each of the clay, which made it fun. I did end up giving a little extra to a couple of the kiddos as they asked for it, but I still had enough left over at the end to five the kids balls of dough to form into anything their hearts desired. We ended up with a bunch of beads, a flower, and, my personal favorite, a pie engraved with the decimal for pi. Can you tell we’re working on geometry?

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I sent the kids all out into the yard and gave them five minutes to find examples of plants that they thought, based on our reading for the day, might be similar to plants that might have existed with the dinosaurs. They found some good ones. I’m grateful that there is a huge yard filled with all variety of plants from which they could choose. Otherwise I might have had to buy artificial plant stems.

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The kids then pressed their clay into a roundish shape and pushed a dinosaur figure (or two) into the prepared clay, adding plants as desired.

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They were fascinated by the way the clay took the impressions, which made my purchase of the clay feel even more justified. The biggest issue we had was trying to explain to the kids that they had to take out the items and just leave the impressions. They didn’t want to, since they really liked how the pieces looked with all the plants.

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So we compromised. We decided to vote on winners this week with the plants and then vote again next time with the plants removed and the paint added. That seemed to appease them.

We voted for the piece the kids considered the most attractive, and I had them each place a little dinosaur by their choice. It ended up looking like the dinosaurs were all trekking to an oasis, which was fun.

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Once the voting was finished, I removed all the dinosaurs and plants and set the pieces aside to dry. Some of them are pretty thick, so I’m guessing they’re going to take a few days to dry. Come back next time to see how they look all dried and painted. Have a wonderful week!

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