Saturday, July 13, 2013

Digging for Dinosaurs at Avondale Regional Library's Family Fun Night

Family Night at the Avondale Regional Library was a dinosaur extravaganza! After sharing fun facts about our favorite dinosaurs, the children spent the rest of the evening as Paleontologists with six hand-on learning stations.

Dinner and Dessert
Fun Fact: This would have been the actual size of a T-Rex's mouth,
which means we were little more than a mouthful!

Station 1:  How Dinosaur Fossils are Formed, or Help! I'm Sinking in Quicksand!
A fossil is the remains of a plant or animal that lived at least ten thousand years ago. The fossilization process begins when a plant or animal dies and then sinks to the bottom of a mud or sand layer. Our quicksand was made by mixing cornstarch and water. This mixture behaves as a solid when pressure is applied, and as a liquid when pressure is released. So our dinosaurs sank easily, but were difficult to extract!

Station 2:  Paleontologists Dig Dinosaurs, Do You?
Over time, after the animal is covered with mud, or sediment, the animal body decays and mineralized water seeps into the bones and teeth, causing them to turn to rock. The children donned safety goggles to excavate the fossilized remains of these dinosaurs.

Station 3:  Making a Good Impression
Sometimes, after the plant or animal dies and is covered by mud, it does not turn into a fossil. The mud, or sediment, around the plant or animal turns into rock, and the plant or animal decays so that an empty space is all that is left. This kind of fossil is called an imprint fossil. We made our imprint fossils by pressing, and then removing, plastic dinosaurs into salt dough.Salt dough is made by mixing equal parts salt and flour, and a half portion of water. After the impression is made, the dough can be air dried or baked.

Station 4:  Hey Fossil, How Old Are You? 
Just how old is that dinosaur fossil? Scientists use a method called radioisotope-dating (which means they measure the radio activity)to date the volcanic rock above and below the dinosaur fossil to answer that question. We used baking soda and vinegar to made our volcano explode!

Station 5: Hatching a Dinosaur
Dinosaurs hatched from eggs. Some eggs were round and some were oval. The largest egg ever found was about the size of a basketball! Paleontologists can learn many things by studying the fossilized eggs and nests of dinosaurs. For instance, many dinosaurs cared for their young, bringing food to the nest just like birds. We snuck up on this Mama Dinosaur and snatched an egg from her nest. We then "hatched" the egg and matched it to a chart with known dinosaurs.

Station 6:  Asteroid Attack!
Fossil evidence tells us that dinosaurs all died very suddenly about 65 million years ago. But what caused them to die? Most scientists believe that a huge asteroid, or space rock, hit the earth in Mexico. It was so big that it made a huge crater, or hole, in the earth. Many dinosaurs were killed instantly. All kinds of dust and dirt and gases were kicked up into the atmosphere. The dust blocked the sunlight, so the plants died.  When the plants died, the plant eaters had nothing to eat so they died. When the plant eaters died, the meat eaters had nothing to eat so they died. Mass extinction! We dropped marbles and golf balls into flour to create our asteroid impacts.

Family Fun Night at the Avondale Regional Library will resume in September.  We hope you'll join us!  Call 205-226-4003 for more information and to register.

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