Forums / Research in Science Education / Paleontologists and Dinosaurs

Research in Science Education

Paleontologists and Dinosaurs

Author Post
Mary Lynn Hess Mary Hess 12358 Points

After getting a hands-on opportunity to go to a local dig site for fossils, I thought this would be perfect topic to teach my students. After going to our school's media center, I noticed there were numerous books about dinosaurs and one book about fish fossils. I reached out to a paleontologist and he stated most paleontolgists do not study dinosaurs. 

Kids have this connection between paleontologists and dinosaurs only. Why is that? There is so much more that paleontologists discover in their field finding other prehistoric organisms.

What are your thoughts? 


Mary Lynn Hess Mary Hess 12358 Points

After consulting Page Keeley, here is her response:

'Thanks for sharing those interesting points about how children think about fossils. There has not been any research that I know of on children's ideas about fossils other than what I included in the probe notes. Sounds like a good topic for someone to do a study!'


Science 101: What is a fossil? (Journal Article)

Dig Into Fossils! (Journal Article)

Peter Ower Peter Ower 140 Points

Dinosaurs are always a cool animal for young kids to learn about. They're fascinating!

I wonder if this connection that fossils = dinosaurs is due to the exposure at an early age without reference to other types of fossils. For example, at museums the first fossils typically shown are the attention getters: T-Rex, triceratops, etc. Also, bones are (arguably?) the most easily preserved part of an organism. So non-bony organisms are harder to come by, like plants, fish, insects, etc. These are usually imprints or carbon remains rather than eye-grabbing skeletons.

I just started a unit where the driving phenomenon is a new fossil. Many students asked what it is and that is what they are trying to figure out. We also talked about the variety of fossils: petrified, preserved remains, trace, etc.

I wonder what students would say fossils include? If we were to survey students, across various ages/grade levels, I wonder what patterns we'd see. Would younger studetns focus mostly on bones of dinosaurs? Would older students talk about more variety? Reminds me of a first grade unit where students believe that humans are not animals because they believe animals live in nature while humans do not. Also fascinating to see what the students are thinking and how they reason their ideas!

Gabrielle Cordova Gabrielle Cordova 770 Points

I beleive kids have a connection between paleontologists and dinosaurs only because that is what we learned growing up and what we see in movies. When I was younger that is what I thought myself as well probably because of watching Jurassic Park. Then I realized as I got a older that they study all fosslized past life. 

Jenna Ruiz-Ortiz Jenna Ruiz-Ortiz 120 Points

Thank you for your post. I had not even thought of this before, but it makes sense. I need to go and look more into this due to the misinformation that many students and adults have. 

Post Reply

Forum content is subject to the same rules as NSTA List Serves. Rules and disclaimers