DINOSAURS: MEAT-ASAURUS OR VEGGIE-ASAURUS
In this lesson, students will join Ms. Frizzle's class and be
transported back in time to the late Cretaceous period, sixty-seven million
years ago. They will observe dinosaurs as they eat, hunt, interact with
other dinosaurs, and even care for their young. By analyzing data collected
during this lesson, students will draw the conclusion that most dinosaurs
were herbivores rather than carnivores. Students will also understand that
dinosaurs were not bloodthirsty monsters, but were merely following their
instincts for survival. This lesson may be completed in one class period
or may be extended to two or three periods.
The Magic School Bus #205: The Magic School Bus The Busasaurus
Students will be able to:
1. compare and contrast shapes and sizes of various dinosaurs.
2. conclude that there were more plant eaters than meat eaters.
3. explain that meat eaters were hunters, searching for food.
4. make predictions based on observed behaviors.
5. collect data.
6. explain that the information we have regarding dinosaurs has been gathered
7. construct a model of a fossil.
Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), Grade 4
#3: Demonstrate an understanding of geometric properties and relationships.
#4: Demonstrate an understanding of measurement concepts using metric and
#2: Sequence, order and/or classify scientific data and/or information.
#4: Interpret scientific data and/or information.
#5. Make inferences, form generalized statements, and/or make predictions
using scientific data and/or information.
NCTM Standards for K-4
Standard 5: Estimation
Standard 13: Patterns and relationships
Per group of 2-4 students:
- roll of adding machine tape
- clear plastic cup sand
- 1 cup supersaturated salt solution
- 1 sponge, cut into the shape of a bone
- 1 9x12 inch sheet of light colored construction paper
- Student Worksheet #1
Give the students a piece of colored construction paper. Have
them fold it in half. Have them write the following titles at the top of
each page. On the front of the folded paper, have them write "Things
I Know About Dinosaurs". On the inside left, have them write, "Things
I Would Like to Know About Dinosaurs." On the inside right, have them
write "Things I Learned About Dinosaurs." And on the back, have
them write, "My Favorite Dinosaur." Ask the students to make a
list of things they know and things they would like to learn about dinosaurs.
To give students a specific responsibility while viewing the
video, say, "Students in Ms. Frizzle's class have been visiting a dig.
They have been talking with Dr. Skeledon about how scientists find fossils
of dinosaurs. In order to learn more about these marvelous creatures, Ms.
Frizzle is preparing to take the class on a very different kind of field
trip. We are going to join them. You wrote 'Things I Know About Dinosaurs'
on your paper. As we watch the video, if you find that you made a statement
that is correct, put a check by it. If you find that your information was
incorrect, draw a line through it. You also wrote 'Things I would Like to
Know About Dinosaurs.' If you find the answer to your questions, make a
quick note and we'll talk about it later. You will see Liz, Ms. Frizzle's
lizard, collecting data about the dinosaurs they see. You will be using
a chart like Liz's to help you decide if most dinosaurs were meat eaters
or plant eaters. You will need to watch closely to find out what these prehistoric
animals preferred for lunch. Watch as the class begins its field trip. Find
out where they are going and how long it will take to get there. Also watch
for any changes you see taking place in the scenery as they travel."
BEGIN the video after people are seen walking backward,
climbing into the jeep, and the jeep moving in reverse. The first frame
students will see should be birds flying through the air and the bus appearing
as a lighted spiral. The first voice students hear should say, "We're
going back in time. We've never done this before."
PAUSE when you see the bus covered with ice and snow and you hear
Phoebe say, "Why is it so cold? Ask, "Where have the students
gone? (back in time) What changes did you see happening in the landscape
as they traveled through time? (changes in the trees, water, weather, ice
and snow) Why do you think it has become so cold? (accept all reasonable
answers) How far back in time do you think the bus will carry the students?
(accept all reasonable answers) Let's watch to find out why it has gotten
so cold, and how far back in time the students are going to travel. Also
see if you notice any other changes in the scenery." RESUME
PAUSE when you hear the students say, "Sixty-seven million years!!
That means we'll probably see... .!" and you see a the head of an Alamasaurus
coming toward the children. Ask, "If you were one of the students standing
there, how would you feel? When was the first ice age? (1 million years
ago) How far back in time have the students traveled? (67 million years)
This time period has a specific name. Do you remember what Ms. Frizzle called
it? (the late Cretaceous)" [Note: You may wish to rewind the video
if students don't remember.] How do you think that word is spelled? (have
students sound out the word or look it up in dictionary) What other changes
did you see in the environment? (ice thawing, volcano receding) What do
you predict the dinosaur will do? Watch to see how this dinosaur reacts
to the students. Also listen to learn it's name. RESUME video.
PAUSE when you hear Ms. Frizzle say, "Now don't play with your
food, little Alamasaurus. Ask, "What is the name of this dinosaur?
(Alamasaurus) How did it react to the students? (passed them by, ate the
leaves of the bush) Do you think it is a meat eater or a plant eater? Let's
watch its behavior and you try to decide." RESUME video.
PAUSE when you see Ralphie look into the camera, put his hands to
the sides of his head and say, "See, I knew this would happen. The
dinos did them in." Ask, "What do you think? Was the Alamasaurus
a plant eater or a meat eater? Ms. Frizzle presented a perplexing proposition.
Were dinosaurs ferocious or friendly, sweet or savage, murderous or... As
we watch the rest of the video, Liz will keep a chart on which to record
data about the dinosaurs the students will encounter. In order to help us
answer Ms. Frizzle's perplexing question, we will also keep records."
Hand out Worksheet #1 and allow time for students to cut out the symbols
for plants and meat. Explain the procedure to the students. Say, "As
we meet each dinosaur, you should watch its behavior and decide whether
it is a meat eater or plant eater. Then, using your chart, place either
the symbol for plant or the symbol for meat next to that dinosaur. We will
check your predictions with Liz's chart, and when we are sure we know the
answer, you can glue your symbol to your chart. Now let's continue our trip
and see which dinosaurs the students encounter next." RESUME.
PAUSE when you hear Carlos say, "Yeah. Bloodthirsty for Arnold."
Ask, "What did you see the Parasaurolophus doing? (eating plants, drinking
water) Predict whether these dinosaurs are plant eaters or meat eaters.
Put the symbol for your choice on the chart. Let's watch and see if your
prediction was correct. Also, see if you can find out what the structures
on the Parasaurolophus' heads are for." RESUME.
PAUSE when you see Liz put a plant symbol on the chart and your hear,
"Chalk up another vegetarian, Liz." Ask, "Were you correct?
Glue the symbol for the plant next to the Parasaurolophus. What is the structure
on their heads? (it helps them produce noises) As the class tries to reach
Arnold and Phoebe, they meet another dinosaur. Watch carefully and see what
you can find out about this creature." RESUME video.
PAUSE when you see the mother dinosaur pull berries from the tree,
and you hear Keesha say, "She doesn't look to me like she wants to
fight." Ask, "Where did the students land after the bus flipped
through the air? (in a nest) Do you think this dinosaur is a meat eater
or a plant eater? Put the symbol for your choice next to the picture of
this dinosaur. Let's see if you are correct. Also watch to find out how
this mother dinosaur feeds her young." RESUME.
PAUSE when you hear Tim say, "Carlos, wait. They're not meat
eaters. They're even good mothers." Ask, "Did you predict that
this dinosaur would be a plant eater? Glue your symbol to the chart. How
did the mother feed her young? (She regurgitated the berries she had eaten.)
Many scientists once believed that dinosaurs laid their eggs and left them
to hatch. Then the young had to take care of themselves. Is that what the
class has found to be true of this dinosaur? (No, they were good mothers.)
Watch the next part of this story and see what the class learns about the
next dinosaur they meet. Arnold and Phoebe have been chasing the Ornithomimus
that stole Arnold's egg. Watch and see what happens to the egg, the Ornithomimus,
and Phoebe and Arnold." RESUME.
PAUSE when you see the class standing on a hill overlooking a valley
where dinosaurs are feeding, and you hear Ms. Frizzle say, "I knew
the bus would be around here somewhere." Ask, "Look at the dinosaurs
in the valley. What are they doing? (eating) Do you think they will be meat
eaters or plant eaters? Put your symbol on the chart. Watch to see if you
are correct." RESUME video.
PAUSE when you hear Dorothy Ann say, "The Triceratops won't
hurt us. They're plant eaters, just like the others," and you see Liz
add a plant symbol to the chart. Ask, "Were you correct? Glue your
symbol to the chart. All of the dinosaurs we have met so far are plant eaters.
Does this mean that all dinosaurs were plant eaters? (no) And all the plant
eaters seem to be gentle, even if they are extremely large. Does that mean
that all dinosaurs were gentle? (no) As you watch the next part of this
video, see if you can draw conclusions about the meat eating dinosaurs the
class encounters." RESUME video.
PAUSE when you hear, "It's a pack of Trilodons -- and they do
eat meat." Ask, "Were the Triceratops plant eaters? Did you make
the right prediction? Glue the symbol for plants on your chart. We suspected
that the class would run into meat eating dinosaurs. Glue a symbol for "meat"
on your chart. The Trilodons are trying to find lunch. Watch to see how
the adult Triceratops protect their young." RESUME.
PAUSE when you hear, "Looks to me like they want an easy lunch
without a fight." Ask, "How did the adult Triceratops protect
their young? (They formed a circle using their heads and horns as a shield.)
Why didn't the Trilodons attack the Triceratops? (They just wanted an easy
meal without any trouble. The horns scared them off.) All throughout this
trip, Phoebe and Arnold have been chasing an Ornithomimus who stole Arnold's
egg. Watch to see if or how they get it back." RESUME video.
PAUSE when you hear Ralphie say, "Is it just me, or is that
a real, live, Tyrannosaurus Rex behind them." Say, "Decide if
you think the Tyrannosaurus Rex is a meat eater or plant eater. Look at
his teeth. That should give you a clue. Watch to see if Phoebe and Arnold
escape without becoming lunch." RESUME video.
PAUSE when you see the Tyrannosaurus Rex run away, and you hear the
students cheer, "Yeah! Way to go, Arnold. You did it!" Say, "Arnold
and Phoebe are safe. What did you find out about the Tyrannosaurus Rex?
(meat eater, didn't want to fight someone his own size, didn't want to get
hurt) As we finish the next part of this video, you should listen to find
out what the class has learned about dinosaurs. " RESUME video.
Stop the video when you see Arnold shrink, and you hear Phoebe say, "It's
a good thing you didn't stay home today, Arnold." Ask, "What did
the students learn about dinosaurs?" (There are more plant eaters than
meat eaters. The meat eaters wanted a quick meal without getting hurt. They
were not blood thirsty monsters.)
Say, "At the beginning of this lesson, I asked you to make
a list of things you knew about dinosaurs. Look back at that list. As we
viewed the video, you put a check by anything that you found to be true,
and you put a line through anything that you thought was true but you learned
to be untrue. Did you get new information? Did you have any of your questions
answered? (Allow time for students to discuss any questions they answered
or any they still have.) On your folder, turn to the page titled 'Things
I Learned About Dinosaurs' and write at least three things you learned from
watching this video. Later you will draw a picture of your favorite dinosaur
on the back of your folder."
"Remember that Ms. Frizzle's class has learned that all the information
we have about dinosaurs has been gathered from finding fossils. Remember
that a fossil is the remains of an organism that has been preserved in stone
or some other material that does not allow decomposition. Before a fossil
could form, what had to happen to the animal? (it had to die, it had to
be covered up) We are going to look at one way that fossils form. Each group
needs a clear cup. Fill the cup about 1/4 full of sand. The sponge on your
table is shaped like a bone. That's because in this demonstration, it will
act like a dinosaur's bone. Put the bone in the cup and cover it up with
sand. Now we will take the liquid and pour it into the cup until the sand
is thoroughly wet. The minerals in the water will soak into the sponge like
the rain carries minerals in the soil into the bones. We will put the cups
in a safe place and look at them again in a couple of days. What do you
think will happen to the sponge?" (Allow students to make predictions
and record them on a chart tablet or a piece of butcher paper to be hung
in the room.)
Say, "You heard Ms. Frizzle say that dinosaurs came in all shapes and
sizes. We often think of dinosaurs as being giants, and many were. However,
there were small dinosaurs, also. I'm going to give you some sizes of dinosaurs.
I have given each group a roll of adding machine tape. We are going to use
that tape to make a comparison of the sizes of dinosaurs. You will need
to use your ruler to measure a length of tape that matches the length of
the dinosaur. After you have cut the tape, write the name of the dinosaur
in large letters across it." [Show Overhead Transparency #1]
Allow students time to measure, cut and label the adding machine tape. Display
it in the room or in the hallway.
Have students write to the following requesting information
on their dinosaur exhibits:
Dinosaur Valley State Park
P. O. Box 396
Glen Rose, Texas 76043
Dinosaur National Monument
P. O. Box 128
Jensen, UT 84035
Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology
P. O. Box 7500
Drumheller, Alberta Canada T0J 0Y0
Field Museum of Natural History
Roosevelt Road at Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
Have each student do research in the library on at least ten other dinosaurs
to find out whether they are meat eaters or plant eaters. Use the information
gathered by the class to create a Venn diagram showing the relationship
between the number of plant eaters and the number of meat eaters. Have each
student research at least ten modern day animals and determine whether they
are meat eaters or plant eaters. Create a class Venn diagram. Do the charts
show similar information?
Art: Create Dino-notes. Cut 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper into
fourths to make note sheets. Cut a potato in half. Sketch a dinosaur shape
on the surface of the potato. Use a plastic knife to carefully cut around
your shape and cut away the excess potato. The dinosaur shape should be
slightly raised. Coat the dinosaur with paint and print dinosaurs at the
top of the note sheets.
Art: Create a class mural showing a scene from the late Cretaceous
period. Be sure that the dinosaurs depicted in the mural are portrayed as
accurately as possible. You may wish to introduce scale and have students
calculate the size of the dinosaurs they will draw.
Science: Investigate information that can be collected from studying
footprints. Cover a large area of the floor or a sidewalk with newspaper.
Place a 4-5 foot strip of butcher paper on the newspaper. Have a tub of
water at one end for washing after the activity. At the other end, have
aluminum pie tins in which you have placed tempra paint. Have students take
off their shoes and step into the paint. Then have them travel along the
butcher paper. They can walk, hop, skip, or run. They can even put their
hands and feet in the paint and walk across the butcher paper. You may want
to use a different sheet of butcher paper for each action. Have students
look at each pattern of prints that are left to understand how paleontologists
can gather information from footprints. [Note: If you would rather not use
paint, you can use black butcher paper and have students merely wet their
feet and walk across the paper. The prints disappear when they dry, but
you get the same effect if you study them before they dry.]
Language Arts: Ask students to pretend that they were transported
back in time like Ms. Frizzle's class. Have them first draw a picture of
their favorite dinosaur on the back of their folder. Then have them write
a story about their encounter with that dinosaur.
Using the picture of their favorite dinosaur, have the students write a
story from the perspective of that dinosaur. What would life be like? What
must the dinosaur do to survive? Is it the hunter or the hunted? What other
animals would it encounter during the course of a day?
Math: Have students write the alphabet and assign each letter a number.
[For example, A = 1; B = 2; C = 3, Z = 26] Challenge students to find the
dinosaur whose name has the greatest value when all the letters are added
d i n o s a u r 4 + 9 + 14 + 15 + 19 + 1 + 22 + 18 = 102
Give students the length of dinosaurs in feet. Have them convert this measurement
The Internet is a dynamic resource with addresses and sites that are constantly
changing. Teachers should always check these internet sites themselves before
sending students surfing on their own.
I. World Wide Web sites for student exploration
A. Honolulu Community College Dinosaur Exhibit
This site has a very informative audio and video tour of the museum which
answers questions such as: How can you tell Triceratops was an herbivore
or T-rex a carnivore? What traits made T-rex a good hunter?
B. Dinosaur Hall
This site has a searchable database which students can use to research the
most current information on any aspect of dinosaurs. Topics specifically
related to this unit might include: carnivore, herbivore, Cretaceous, Triceratops,
or Tyrannosaurus Rex. It also has several links to other dinosaur related
This web site provides a wealth of information on dinosaurs for both teachers
and students in upper elementary grades to high school. It can be reached
through Dinosaur Hall or on its own at this address. Several articles discuss
the difference between science and non-science as related to dinosaur research
and theory. One article dissects movies like Jurassic Park to separate the
scientific fact from the fiction. After reading this article, students could
make a chart comparing the aspects of the movie that are based on science
fact (i.e. physical features of dinosaurs) with those that are primarily
science fiction (i.e. cloning dinosaurs from fossilized blood samples).
D. Chicago Field Museum of Natural History Life Over Time Exhibit
The site has an interactive tour of the museum with a teacher's guide of
activities that can be used in conjunction with the on-line tour. Students
can also download an audio clip of a weather forecast for the Triassic period
and take an on-line dino trivia quiz.
II. E-Mail resources
A. Ask-a-Curator firstname.lastname@example.org
This service is provided by the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
Students or teachers may send questions in concerning dinosaurs to the resident
experts in vertebrate zoology.
B. Dinosaur listserv
This listserv has regular postings, often of a technical nature, concerning
current aspects of dinosaur research. It is probably most appropriate for
teachers to use as a current resource rather than students. To subscribe,
send a message to the following address, email@example.com.
Leave the subject line blank. In the body type subscribe dinosaur your name.
Dixon, Dougal, Questions and Answers About Dinosaurs, Kingfisher, New York,
New York, l993
Dixon, Dougal, Be a Dinosaur Detective, Lerner Publications, Mineapolis,
Fuller, Mel, Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life; Whole Language Theme Unit,
Instructional Fair, Inc., Grand Rapids, MI, 1991
Pearce, Q. L., All About Dinosaurs, Little Simon, Published by Simon and
Schuster Inc., New York, 1989
"Windows on Science", Optical Data, Warren, NJ, 1990
Side 6 - From Fossils, Dinosaurs and Geologic Time Travel
Chapter 6 - Life and Times of Hadrosaurs
Chapter 7 - Extinction of the Dinosaurs
Chapter 10 - Carnivorous Dinosaurs
1995-1996 National Teacher Training Institute / Austin
Master Teacher: Gayle Evertson
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worksheet associated with this lesson.
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