Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Dinosaurs Should Rock Older Students Too

By John Long

Primary schools use dinosaurs to teach how scientific disciplines overlap. Universities should too.

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Young children are often read fairy tales that expose them to a fantasy world inhabited by dragons, witches, elves, trolls, ogres and other supernatural monsters, as well as acts of magic. Exciting as this world can be, the first time a child is shown a dinosaur skeleton, and explained that it’s the remains of a real creature, the world of science is introduced. In August 2012 British palaeontologist Dr David Hone, writing in The Guardian about why dinosaurs are important (https://goo.gl/txFpeY), said:

… dinosaurs provide a wonderful way of talking to a young audience about all manner of scientific ideas and showing how things like geochemistry and biology can come together. They can also provide a great frame of reference for discussing issues in palaeontology.

The wonder of dinosaurs can be seen in people of all ages, including new university students. Several US and Canadian universities (e.g. Cornell, Maryland, Alberta) use dinosaurs as a hook to get students interested in science through courses that introduce a wide range of disciplines including biology, geology, chemistry, physics and astronomy. Strangely, not one university in Australia I’m aware of has yet used this concept to develop an exciting interdisciplinary science course for first-year students.

Just think of the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.