Dino-mite infused fun!

After the launch of our Dinosaur project based learning unit with a field trip to the Alaska State Fair, it was time for us to learn about the dinosaurs, answer our essential and personal questions, and figure out the answer to our overarching driving question: What happened to the dinosaurs?


The students immersed themselves in nonfiction text, played nonfiction games, enjoyed art projects, tried their hand at problem solving games, went on a WebQuest excursion, and participated in uncovering fossils at our very own “Dinosaur Mountain Dig”.


Check out some of the learning that happened along the way.


Dr. Durbin
Me – inviting students to class and sparking interest for our new project!


When my students arrived to school for our learning week, I was dressed as a paleontologist! It was super fun to see their expression when I greeted them at the door.  They knew we were in for a fun day – actually 2 weeks – of learning.  In my classroom, our day begins with students working in their online learning program (personalized learning), then off to specials, and wrapping up the morning with some content driven direct instruction.  After lunch and recess, we get to spend the rest of the day working on our projects.


Once the students entered into the classroom, they couldn’t resist checking out the “Dinosaur Mountain Dig” site.  “What are we doing here?” was the question that hummed throughout the morning.


I love to add a little excitement and suspense to our learning environment.


It wasn’t long before I had more questions about our project!  They knew we would learn more about dinosaurs, but how were we going to be learning?  By becoming researchers, paleontologists, and artists . . . of course!


I set up the learning using a station-rotation format (materials posted at the end of this blog). There were seven stations for students to participate in, gather information, and engage in learning discourse with their peers. I chose to set up the stations using a variety of learning experiences to fit the diverse learning needs of my students.  Students spent about 25 minutes at each station over two week station learning period.  Towards the end of the two week timeframe, students did have the option to go back to any station he/she felt needed more attention.  Check out the station-rotation learning below.


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Here students work on a dinosaur art project. They water colored a background first.  Then they watched Art Hub for Kids to draw a dinosaur.  Here you see students coloring their dinosaur using oil pastels.  Once this piece was done, students adhered the dinosaur to their background, and created additional setting items to finish their art project with construction papers.  Since we’ve been studying a variety of dinosaurs, students finished off the project by writing a “How to be a Dinosaur” poem.  We attached to poem to their artwork and shared these projects with our learning community.



This is one of the nonfiction games students played and used for learning.  You can see the students are writing important information in their Project Based Interactive Notebook (PBIN).  When students research, they are to use a variety of resources – at least 3 – to gather information.  From the research gathered in each learning center, students complete a Process Grid that was located in our Google Classroom.  The completed Process Grid was printed off and adhered into their project notebook.



Here are additional learning centers for students to gather information and share learning about a large variety of dinosaurs. The students enjoyed quizzing each other with this card game and learning about dinosaurs.  This was a favorite game that students chose to play during free choice time.


Over the course of the two weeks, students worked in a variety of centers to work as real researchers and paleontologists.  The essential questions were driving our learning centers each day. We debriefed each day to share new learnings and see how our learning was getting us closer to answer our driving question.



The students took their job seriously and worked diligently to discover the ancient fossils.  Once all the fossils were discovered, students had to figure out how to put them together and identify the prehistoric animal. 

An exciting part of our learning was being a paleontologist.

Students engaged in some critical thinking and problem solving centers.  Here students must keep the meat and plant eaters on separate islands.  Following the clues on the card, students worked to solve the problem.  There are three different levels to challenge every student.  I set out a card for each level, so students could decide which level they felt ready to accomplish.



Another learning center focused on students engaging in a WebQuest that I created.  The WebQuest was placed on my classroom website, so students could work on the project at school and at home.  Besides reading additional information, I included some videos to view and games to play so students had a variety of technological resources available to support their learning.  In my classroom, I use flexible seating options.  These choices allow students to get comfortable and learn in a way that supports each individual.


As you can see, these learning experiences were quite diverse and allowed students to learn at a variety of instructional and cognitive levels that occurred over a two week period.  Giving students time to use a variety of learning resources and opportunities to learn in ways that are unique to the learner is an important part of my classroom.


While our learning centers operated in the afternoon, I took some time in the morning to provide direct instruction working with other dinosaur nonfiction texts. Literary skills included: nonfiction conventions, note taking skills, determining text importance, outlining, concept mapping, and highlighting important text. Students took three quizzes and a test over the five week unit.


This was a fun game that provided “easy and challenge” game questions to allow students to choose their own knowledge level.

Dinosaur fossil kits with all the tools needed for your paleontologists.

The official lab jacket for kids and teachers!!

Using all the resources available, students consistently engaged in conversation about the essential questions and overarching driving question.  As our unit came to an end, I provided direct instruction on writing nonfiction paragraphs.  Students wrote and color coded (topic sentence, supporting details, concluding sentence) a paragraph for each essential question and driving question.  Color coding is a great way for visual learners to learn the paragraph components.


With our work nearly complete, students are ready to “Escape from Dinosaur Park”.  Check back on our learning celebration and see how the students survived living with the dinosaurs.


If you would like to know more information about this learning, just contact me.  I’m happy to answer any questions, and help you engage your students in learning.

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Annette Durbin

Annette has been an educator for 29 years working in the PK-6 elementary classroom, English learner instructional specialist, district leadership, university professor, as well as a mentor for teachers nationwide. A National Board Certificated Teacher, Annette focuses her research on accelerating learning and advancing achievement, personalizing instruction, technology, and leadership in the education field.

This Post Has 48 Comments

    1. Annette Durbin

      Thank you, Courtney! Yes . . . this was a memorable experience throughout the 5-6 week unit. We’re currently studying Ancient Civilizations . . . check back for these posts. 🙂

      ~ Annette

  1. Nikki

    I love all the hands on projects your doing. Trying to keep things interesting for kids today is probably hard so I applaud your extra effort.

    1. Annette Durbin

      Thank you, Nikki! It is a lot of extra work, but nothing worth doing is easy. The learning that takes place, the memories, the connections . . . so worth the extra effort!

      Thanks for stopping by!
      ~ Annette

  2. Janine

    This looks amazing! Anytime you can have a hands on activity is a win in my book. The students learn so much more!

    1. Annette Durbin

      Janine, I completely agree!! Passive learning is boring.

      Thanks for stopping by!
      ~ Annette

  3. Pam

    so fun! Looks like the kids had a blast and were learning at the same time. win-win!

    1. Annette Durbin

      That is a win-win in my book, too, Pam!! I wish I had learned this way in school. The few classes that I had more of these experiences are the classes and content that I remember.

      Thanks for stopping by!
      ~ Annette

  4. Nicki

    This look like so much fun! I bet your students had a blast!!

    1. Annette Durbin

      You bet they did, Nicki!! They still talk about this learning unit . . . 2 months later.

      ~ Annette

  5. Jocelyn

    This looks so fun! I bet your students loved it. So creative and interactive.

    1. Annette Durbin

      Yes, Jocelyn, such a memorable experience to be involved in all aspects of learning.

      Thanks for stopping by!
      ~ Annette

  6. Angela

    So many things I love about your methodology of teaching! Bringing fun and learning into the classroom, you can totally see how engaged and engrossed your students are with the dino project! Awesome stuff!!! Sharing with a couple of teacher friends here in FL. Thanks 🙂

    1. Annette Durbin

      Thanks, Angela!! Yes, share away. The kids are 110% engaged in learning. Parents often tell me how much fun their child is having. The kids don’t respond “nothing” to the “What did you do in school today?” question. This makes me happy. The other comment: Thank you! My child loves your class. He/she loves coming to school. THIS makes me sooo happy.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing with your teacher friends.

      ~ Annette

  7. Tricia Snow

    Looks like the kids learned a lot and had fun while they were learning!

    1. Annette Durbin

      Oh yes, Tricia. These kiddos were soo engaged each day for the daily two hour project based learning class.

      Thanks for stopping by!
      ~ Annette

  8. Holly Bird

    Annette, this looks like you and the students had fun! Love this post, it show how much fun kids can have and still learn!

    1. Annette Durbin

      Thanks, Holly! It is amazing what these kiddos learned from each part of the curriculum. We do have FUN every day!!

      Thanks for stopping by!!
      ~ Annette

  9. Noelle

    This is fabulous! I’ll pass it on to my cohorts who teach a unit on dinosaurs.

    1. Annette Durbin

      Noelle, pass along!!! I love that we can share ideas with each other to help educators inspire learning!

      Thanks for stopping by today!
      ~ Annette

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