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Dinosaurs: Activities and Lesson Plans

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Seminars on Science, Essay

Explore the Family Tree of Birds

Scientists on many parts of the globe are working to decipher the family tree of animals at the transition from non-avian dinosaurs to birds. Find out why it's such a hot topic.

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Online Educator's Guide

New technology and new discoveries are leading scientists to reinterpret many of the most persistent and puzzling mysteries about dinosaurs. Make the most of your exhibit visit with this practical, printable guide.

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Curriculum Materials

What Teeth Tell Us

Are those sharp, pointy dinosaur teeth all the better to eat you with? Or are they designed for tough vegetation? Examine dinosaur teeth as a paleontologist would.

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Curriculum Materials

What is a Dinosaur

It's not what they ate or when they lived that distinguishes dinosaurs from other reptiles. It's the hole in their hip socket. Find out how this feature affected the way dinosaurs walk.

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Classroom Activity

What Makes a Dinosaur a Dinosaur

Can you walk like a dinosaur? Hint: The movement is not like lizards, crocodiles, and other reptiles; instead, it's more like birds. Investigate what else birds and dinosaurs have in common.

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Activity

Make Your Own Liaoning Diorama

Re-create the 130-million-year-old forest in what is now China to understand why this fossil site is of such vast scientific importance.

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Curriculum Materials

Understanding Cladistics

Explore the method scientists use to determine evolutionary relationships by creating a coin cladogram. Then try your hand at classifying a handful of dinosaurs.

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Curriculum Materials

Understanding Geologic Time

How long have humans been on Earth compared to the length of time dinosaurs roamed the planet? Gain a new understanding of time by mapping out Earth's history.

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Hands-on Activity

Dinosaur Illustrations

Ankylosaurus, Barosaurus, Coelophysis—add to your dinosaur vocabulary with these 12 illustrations. Soon you'll be able to spot a Pachycephalosaurus from across the room.

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Activity

Solve a Sedimentary Layers Puzzle

The history of life on Earth is recorded in the planet's rock layers. Try your hand at reconstructing geologic history with this fossil-filled puzzle.

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Activity

Flesh Out a Fossil

Discover how artists bring dinosaur skeletons to life with skin, feathers, and other features. Then try to create your own lifelike Velociraptor from a skeletal drawing.

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Classroom Activity

Functions of Feathers

 In this classroom activity, students will learn about the different types of feathers and their functions.

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Activity

Smaller Than You Think

Not all dinosaurs were huge creatures that shook the Earth when they walked. Put two dinosaurs in perspective with this drawing activity.

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Classroom Activity

Relative Speed of Dinosaurs

Put your scientific skills to the test to see if you can figure out tell by their footprints if dinosaurs were walking, trotting, or running. 

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Classroom Activity

Plate Tectonics Puzzle

Piece together what Earth may have looked like approximately 220 million years ago when there was a single supercontinent, Pangaea.

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Classroom Activity

Be a Sleuth: How Dinosaurs Behaved

Like today's crime-scene investigators, paleontologists study clues left behind. See firsthand what trackways—fossilized footprints—can tell them about dinosaur behavior.

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Classroom Activity

Create a Timeline of Earth

Did you know Stegosaurus became extinct 66 million years before T. rex walked the Earth? Explore the planet's diverse eras and periods.

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Curriculum Materials

Dinosaur Name Game for Students

In this activity, students will use a key of Greek and Latin root words to decipher dinosaur names. Then—using their imagination—create their own dinosaur, name it and describe how it would have behaved.

Dinosaur Teeth

Curriculum Materials

Dinosaur Teeth

When it comes to dinosaurs, teeth are the windows to these prehistoric reptiles' stomachs—and the different foods that filled them. Examine dinosaur choppers, strippers, grinders, and rippers.

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Curriculum Materials

Dinosaur Timeline

When you've been alive for less than a decade, how in the world do you grasp geologic time? Start with a 100-inch-long roll of adding machine tape and measure out Earth's past.

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Classroom Activity

Be a Trackway Detective

What can you tell from looking at a fossil record of dinosaur footprints? Everything from which dinosaur was there first to what they might have feasted on.

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Curriculum Materials

Bigger Than You Think

Not all dinosaurs were enormous like the 84-foot-long, 30-ton Apatosaurus. TheCompsognathus, for example, approximated an eight-pound chicken. Size up two others.

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Curriculum Materials

What is a Fossil?

The most common fossils are bones and teeth, but not all fossils are body parts. Explore the wide-ranging evidence of ancient life that scientists use to understand Earth's prehistoric past.

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Curriculum Materials

How Big Were Dinosaurs?

How many times would your footprint fit into that of a large dinosaur? Could all of your classmate's feet fill up the small crater? Find out with this personalized look at the 35-ton Apatosaur.

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Curriculum Materials

Grouping Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs all belong to the same group, but within that group there are many subsets—meat-eating dinosaurs, four-legged dinosaurs, and so on. Try your hand at classification with these eight dinosaur illustrations.

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Classroom Activity

Dinosaur Names Activity

Some dinosaur names are short, while others are lengthy tongue twisters. But all are infused with meaning. Examine the linguistic roots of these terrible (deinos) lizards (sauros). 

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Article

Meet the Paleontologists: Jin Meng

Jin Meng studies the morphology, systematics, and evolution of mammals, particularly early mammals. Unlike some paleontologists who focus primarily upon teeth and dentition as their evidence, Dr. Meng examines the cranium, ear region, and enamel microstructure of teeth as sources of data to address evolutionary issues concerning mammals.

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Activity

Observe a Dinosaur

Ever wish you could watch a dinosaur in action? Investigate modern birds for an insightful look at how ancient dinosaurs moved and behaved.

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