Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, K-3
In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades K-8, students use BrainPOP resources (including a free online science game) to help them explore dinosaurs and dinosaur adaptations.
- Explore how dinosaurs’ body parts affected their balance and mobility.
- Use an online game to construct a dinosaur and evaluate its viability according to its leg strength, speed, balance, defense, and attack skills.
- Observe how their constructed dinosaur survives in the wild and make choices regarding its survival (ie, what it should eat and how it should defend itself.)
Preparation:This lesson plan is designed to be used as part of unit of study on dinosaurs or animal adaptations. Students should have some background knowledge about dinosaurs, their predators, and their defense mechanisms prior to beginning the lesson. The activities below center on a free online game from The Children's Museum of Indianapolis called Construct-a-saurus. When starting the game, players will be brought to a laboratory that allows them to build dinosaurs from various body parts. Players can select from a variety of heads, forearms, bodies, hind legs and tails to attribute to their dinosaur. These body parts can balance and unbalance the dinosaur, determining if the dino mobile and can survive in the wild. After building the dinosaur, players will take their dino out into the wild and try to get it back to its home.
You can find many other lesson ideas, background information on dinosaurs and fossils, photos, printable activities, and more in The Children's Museum's Dinosphere Grades K-2 Unit of Study and Dinsosphere Grades 3-5 Unit of Study. You can also explore The Children's Museum's Recommended Reading List (children's book suggestions for grades K-8) and their General Teaching Resources page.
- Build students' background knowledge about dinosaurs through either the BrainPOP movies (Birds, Dinosaurs, Fossils, Natural Selection, Reptiles) or BrainPOP Jr movies (Bones, Extinct and Endangered Species, Fossils). You can use the graphic organizer to help students record and analyze what they learned.
- Talk with students about how various species of dinosaurs defended themselves against predators. What body adaptations protected and assisted them?
- Project the Construct-a-saurus game for the class to see. Invite a student volunteer to design a dinosaur that could stand up to a battle with a T-Rex. As the student selects the various body parts, encourage him or her to explain the reasoning behind each choice. Draw students' attention to the Speed, Defense, Attack, Balance, and Leg Support meters at the bottom of the screen, and how these measures are affected by each change.
- When all the body parts are selected, a progress report may pop up on the screen explaining possible issues, such as the dinosaur being unbalanced. Invite other students to give feedback and suggest alternatives. A Red Alert will appear if a dinosaur will be unable to survive in the wild. If extensive changes need to be made or students become frustrated, encourage students to pay attention to the dinosaur species that each body part belongs to, and match up all the parts of a real species.
- When the student is satisfied with his or her dinosaur, release it into the wild! Another volunteer can attempt to help the dinosaur safely navigate its way back home. Discuss the different paths the dinosaur can take, and how it can choose to behave when it encounters predators.
- Discuss the game as a class. What adaptations allowed the dinosaur to survive longer? Which hindered it? Instruct students to think-pair-share or turn and talk with a partner about how they would build a better dinosaur.
- Release students to play the game on their own. You may want students to take a screenshot of their dinosaur so they can compare it to their peers' dinosaurs later on.
- Return students to a whole class discussion. Younger students may want to discuss strategies for helping their dinosaur survive. Older students may want to analyze the accuracy of the game. In Construct-a-saurus, if a Triceratops tries to defend itself against a Tyrannosaurus, the Triceratops wins. Talk with students about this. How likely is it for certain types of dinosaurs to win the battle? Would the outcomes be the same in every dinosaur battle? What other factors would determine which dinosaur won?
- Invite students to use what they learned from the game to design a dinosaur that would survive in the wild. They can draw their dinosaur on paper or using digital tools, or create the dinosaur using 3D materials. Students should name their dinosaur and write about its diet, predators, and adaptations. Allow students to share their dinosaurs with the class, or post about their creations online so family and friends can view them.