Learning stageEarly Stage 1, Stage 1
Learning areaEnglish, Science
TypeLearning journey, Teaching resources
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Learning journeys offer a scaffolded approach to exploring a topic both in the classroom and at the Museum. Follow our learning journey to deepen your students’ knowledge and understanding of dinosaurs and fossils.
Dinosaurs are a group of land-dwelling reptiles with a set of physical features that distinguish them from all other reptiles. They include the extinct animals we know from fossils and the birds we see today. Reptiles are air-breathing vertebrate animals and lay eggs and have scales for skin. Investigate the main physical features of dinosaurs here.
Fossils are the remains of past life preserved in rock, soil or amber. Generally, the remains were once the hard parts of an organism, such as bones and shell. There are different types of fossils including trace, mineralised, impression and fossils with some organic material preserved.
Through this learning journey, students will:
- learn some of the main features of dinosaurs.
- understand that we know about dinosaurs and their behaviours and features through fossil evidence.
NSW syllabus outcomes: STE-1WS-S; STe-1WS-S; ST1-1WS-S; ST1-4LW-S; ENe-1A; and EN1-1A.
Can't make it in person to the Australian Museum? Or maybe you want to get even more out of your upcoming visit? Whatever the reason, we have some fantastic programs to complement your students' learning journey.
- Explore our exhibitions in virtual reality via Google Expeditions by downloading the Google Expeditions app and searching for the Australian Museum.
Prepare your students
An Acknowledgement of Country is a statement that pays respect to the Traditional Custodians of the Country that you are learning or meeting on and recognises their ongoing relationship with Country. The Australian Museum respects and acknowledges the Gadigal people as the Custodians of the land on which the Museum stands.
Which First Nations Country or Nation was your school built upon? If you are unsure contact a local First Nations organisation to find out. You might like to start with the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group.
Ask your students to write an Acknowledgement of Country for your school. To get them started, read more about why an Acknowledgement of Country is important and how to write one in this ABC article.
What do you know about dinosaurs?
Brainstorm ideas about dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals and how we know they existed (fossils). Using pictures, compare the main features of dinosaurs and other prehistoric reptiles (prehistoric lizards, crocodiles, marine animals).
Move like a dinosaur!
Share a picture of a prehistoric lizard (eg. Megalania), a dinosaur and a marine reptile, and compare their stances. Notice that lizard legs extend out from the sides whilst dinosaur legs are directly underneath their bodies. Show this illustration to demonstrate all dinosaurs had a hole in their hip socket which allowed them to stand this way, and which distinguishes them from other reptiles.
Call on volunteers to show to the class that prehistoric lizards walked using the stance with legs extending out from the sides – students can take a crawling position and then move their arms and legs out to the side. They should shift their weight from side to side as they move awkwardly!
Then call on volunteers to demonstrate a dinosaur stance, with arms and legs positioned directly under the body. This should show that the dinosaurs could walk faster and less awkwardly.
Identify and discuss the main features of a dinosaur
To conclude, play our "Am I a dinosaur?" Kahoot! and discuss the main ideas. Then as a group create a list of things students hope to see and find out about when they visit the Dinosaurs exhibition.
At the Museum
Use our Dinosaurs exhibition discovery or conversation starters or a mixture of both. These activities are designed to encourage your students to connect, share and reflect on this topic through the specimens and items on display.
We recommend that your students work in small groups however how you implement and facilitate the activities is up to you.
Back in the classroom
Have a discussion with your students about the dinosaurs and fossils seen during the excursion. Share some pictures and ask the following questions:
Describe some of the dinosaurs you saw? What did you find interesting about them? How do you think they moved? What do you think they ate? What type of evidence gives palaeontologists information about dinosaurs? What other prehistoric animals did you see during the excursion?
Use this classroom activity to show your students an animation about how dinosaur fossils are formed.
Explore a variety of fossils using casts, pictures from our website or real fossils. Students can guess what prehistoric animal the fossils are from, and what clues they give us about the animal.
As a whole class sort the fossils explored into three groups: trace, body, or impression fossils. Then students can make their own impression fossils out of clay, based on the Australian Museum collections, using our classroom activity.
Australian dinosaur fossils and predator/prey relationships
Use our classroom activity to investigate the fossilised Winton Trackway on which approximately 160 dinosaurs made their mark yet there were only four different types. What do fossil footprints tell us about dinosaurs? Ask students to re-enact small dinosaurs moving in the directions seen on the trackway.
Investigate dinosaur habitats, and compare and contrast the features of carnivorous versus herbivorous dinosaurs and then use our classroom activity to make your own dino-rama of carnivorous dinosaurs.
Explore some findings from other fossil sites in Australia.
Set up your own exhibition
Students can set up their own exhibition about fossils and dinosaurs, or another identified theme. Use our classroom activity about how to create an exhibition in your classroom or school to guide you.