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Category: Prehistory

We are in a hotel room in Steamboat Springs, this weekend we journeyed to Utah and Colorado’s Dinosaur National Monument. We really loved seeing all the dinosaurs this weekend! More photos to come when I am home with Photoshop, but here’s a few teasers.

First stop today was a Natural History museum in Utah where we were greeted by this Diplodocus!

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Then onto Dinosaur National Monument park where Satori earned her Junior Paleontologist badge!

Junior Paleontologist Satori!

Junior Paleontologist Satori!

Over the weekend I started a Geologic Time Period timeline that showed accurately the time between each period. Click image for larger view.

Geologic Timeline on our wall

Geologic Timeline on our wall

I had more plans for it, but should’ve known better. The Quaternary period is so tiny you can barely see it! How will I fit early humans in there? (Satori is fascinated with them.) The huge benefit of that timeline is that it is right next to our Universe Wall Timeline, so not only can we see at a glance 15 billion years ago and visually how very long ago that is compared to the formation of Earth and the first life, but we can see in greater detail the different periods that life went through. Although not yet complete of course, I love it. Hopefully I can do it justice so it can hang on our wall for awhile. 🙂

However, I wanted to get equal space for each time period, so tonight I started a new one. I laid our colorful file folders for each period. My idea was for these to be super-interactive for our family. Firstly, they will stay separate and have  magnetic dots attached on the edge so we can mix them up and have Satori place them in the correct order. Secondly, I attached velcro squares to the middle, and printed off animal images also with Velcro. Now we can put all animal images in a pile and have Satori put them up on the right period. You may think this is too advanced for a four year old, and it probably is, but Satori actually knows quite a bit about ancient life.

I used a Trace font, set it to vertical, printed it out and had Satori trace it. Good handwriting practice!

Satori tracing "Cambrian"

Satori tracing "Cambrian"

Then I printed out images of sample creatures representative of each period. Satori found these lying on the floor and proceeded to glue them on before I could catch her! I carefully peeled them off and quickly put their velcro back on. Using a blue sheet for “sea”, and beige sheets for “land”, I pasted them on each period. The early periods like Cambrian of course only had “sea”. Then Satori placed the creatures on! As you can see, our magnetic backing allows us to put the period up on our magnetic whiteboard. 🙂 Satori LOVED this activity.

Cambrian animal images on timeline

Cambrian animal images on timeline

I have yet to finish the rest of the ages, but here’s my start. You can easily read the period, see at a glance if it had land and/or sea creatures, and there’s room for a few more things. Along the right side, I’ll be putting facts up (like first amphibians) and on the upper right corner, a view of what the earth looked like, and finally, along the top, the exact time period in years.

A good start

A good start

We are lucky to live just minutes away from this spectacular dinosaur site – Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, Colorado. If you live around Denver/Boulder, then take your family to one of their Dinosaur Discovery Days, the second Saturday of each month from 10am to 2:30pm. It’s free, and there will be lots of guides there to give demos and answer questions!

Dinosaur Ridge

Dinosaur Ridge

Our visit was cut short due to both an afternoon storm and our hurry to get to a friend’s party in Boulder. So we’ll have to visit again soon, but the hour that we were there, I was very impressed. This area was the time of the Jurassic dinosaurs – from 206-144 mya. We learned that four of the world’s most famous dinosaurs were discovered in this very place – Stegosaurus, Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, and Diplodocus! Although Apatosaurus was first incorrectly identified and named Brontosaurus, so you may see that dinosaur referenced to Colorado as well.

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Friendly, knowledgeable guides are posted all over the ridge to answer your questions.

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As we chatted with them, some of them thought I was a geologist! Quite flattered, I said I loved studying geology in college, but I forgot it all until this summer, when I homeschooled my daughter in prehistory. They urged Satori and I to be volunteers even, saying that visitors love it when young people are the guides, it makes it more relevant to them I guess. 🙂 Anyway, I was able to look at a picture, and name off the exact period in the past 600 million years where the picture might have represented. Just by reading Satori Smiles blog, you might be able to spot the Dimetrodon (sail-backed reptiles) in this photo and realize this was the Permian period.

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They were even more impressed with Satori, who asked some great questions! We ran into a budding paleontologist, a young girl, probably high school age. We hope to visit her at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science some Wednesday morning when she works. Why would she be there on a school day? Because she is homeschooled too! Satori and the girl had great fun talking about their fossils. She wants to be a curator at a big museum someday.

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Just as we were about to see the fascinating footprints of the dinos on the side of the hill, it started to rain. We quickly flagged down the bus and had to end our day at Dinosaur Ridge. We’ll be back very soon! July 11 might be a good day, we’ll get to bring our own fossils and talk about them. We’ll also plan better and visit the Morrison Natural History Museum.

Next weekend we get to take another dinosaur field trip to a place of mom’s choice, providing it is driving distance! Should it be Utah or Wyoming?

Cartoon History of the Universe Vol 1-7

Cartoon History of the Universe Vol 1-7

I’m now a big fan of these Cartoon History of the Universe books. I used to hate history with a passion when I was school-age. I started reading these back in March, and wish I had read these back in high school, maybe I would’ve remembered more and viewed history as the fascinating, insightful subject that it was. Larry Gonick, the author, injects humor and wit in these books, but most of all, they’re incredibly well-researched! I have a much better perspective of the world after reading these.

Here’s a page out of volume 1, which shows the Dimetrodon and an example of the humor you’ll find. I will always chuckle thinking of the sail-back reptiles flying away helplessly in the wind! At the bottom of the page, it just starts to cover how mammals evolved from reptiles…

Cartoon History of the Universe Vol 1-7

Cartoon History of the Universe Vol 1-7

Gonick has about 4 books covering up through Modern World covering up to the US Constitution, I’m about halfway through reading this book. And the latest one, Modern World, Part 2 is complete, and will be available for sale in October 2009! I can’t wait! So this summer, I will most likely read them all over again, including the Cartoon History of the United States. I have to stay ahead of my daughter in this history stuff. 🙂

Not only Cartoon History, but he also writes Cartoon Guides to important subjects of today such as Physics, Chemistry, Genetics, Sex, Environment, Statistics, Computer and more.

The Cartoon History Guide to Genetics

The Cartoon History Guide to Genetics

In fact, upon more research just now, Larry Gonick’s Cartoon Guides and Histories have been used in classrooms for many years, with great success, including University of Wisconsin where I studied! Also required or recommended at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and probably a hundred more…

More Larry Gonick links:

http://www.larrygonick.com/html/pub/books/his5.html

http://www.amazon.com/Larry-Gonick/e/B000AQ75IY/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1?tag=satosmil-20

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Gonick

After I discovered the Kaiyodo Dinotale Chocosaurs, a week later, our prehistoric creatures came creeping in. I’ll introduce them, according to “age”.

ORDOVICIAN

Our Triarthrus trilobite… Out of the 15 thousand species of trilobites, this is the one most commonly used in science texts displaying trilobite physiology.

Triarthrus trilobite

Triarthrus trilobite

SILURIAN

Our Pterygotus, a sea scorpion (eurypterid), that can grow 7 feet long.

Pterygotus

Pterygotus

DEVONIAN “age of fishes”

Cute little Hemicyclaspsis (closely related to Cephalaspis as seen in Walking with Monsters) is a jawless fish. She had a heavily armored, shovel-shaped headshield

Hemicyclaspis - jawless fish
Hemicyclaspis – jawless fish

And lastly…

PERMIAN
Diplocaulus, the strange looking amphibian with the boomerang-shaped head!

Diplocaulus

Diplocaulus

 

Here they all are, getting together for a prehistoric party. More to come next week! I know you’re looking forward to it. 😛

Prehistoric party!

Prehistoric party!

There have been hundreds of little things I’ve learned the past few months, and realizing that Dimetrodon is not a dino is one. The Dimetrodon is actually an ancestor of mammals in fact! Having both reptile and mammal characteristics, he was one of the first creatures to be able to somewhat control body temperature, using his sail. Living in the Permian period, right before the dinosaurs, he was a carnivore. Other sail-backed reptiles include the Edaphosaurus, an herbivore.

Satori understood his nature quickly, but I couldn’t resist drawing out the scenario and having her place Dimetrodon accordingly. We actually had a Dimetrodon toy in our house, I probably bought it thinking he was a dino, hehe. Still a reptile, Dimetrodon is cold-blooded. Luckily, he’s got these sails on his back that come in very handy. In the morning, all creatures are very sluggish and have to warm up before they can move. Here  our Dimetrodon is basking in the morning sun, his sails turned towards the sun’s warmth to warm his body up quickly.

Dimetrodon basking his sails in morning sun

Dimetrodon basking his sails in morning sun

Soon, he’s all ready and raring to go and starts chomping on an Edaphosaurus, his vegetarian, sail-backed cousin! His sharp teeth are in two sizes, which is why he’s named “Dimetrodon”, meaning two-teeth. As the sun rises high in the sky, it gets very hot. Dimetrodon simply points his sails away from the sun so very little surface area is shown. In this way, he controls his body temperature and cools off!

Cooling off in the mid-day sun

Cooling off in the mid-day sun

Our “Spores All Around” experiment was to demonstrate how the early plants reproduced with spores. As the first plants like mosses lived on land, they reproduced using spores. Our first moss and ferns were able to easily release spores to disperse in the wind, and still do today.

In this experiment, we are going to grow our own mold from these tiny spores that float in the air. We took a piece of bread, moistened it with a bit of water, then set it in a covered container. Satori watched to see nothing else was added. I told her that some spores will have set down in the moment we placed the bread in the container and shut the lid.

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It took awhile, but two weeks later, we can see our fuzzy blue mold. I expected this to take place sooner, but we live in a dry, high altitude place, and it happened to be very cold this month. Perhaps all some of these factors slowed our mold growth.

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In a few days, we will not open this container, but throw it all away.