There is a basic principle of teaching the young that most professional teachers know and swear by despite all the evidence. Children love to learn. Anyone familiar with child psychology knows this. But to make the love of learning come alive in the classroom takes some thinking and planning by any teacher. If you can excite that love of learning that children express so enthusiastically in the way they play and put it to work for you in the classroom, you can quickly turn a group of squirmy and unwilling children into enthusiastic scholars, often without them even knowing you made the change in them.
A great place to start using something that children are already fascinated by to promote learning is to cash in on their enthusiasm for fossils and dinosaurs. Children can easily get excited about dinosaurs and to take them from a study in these ancient creatures to other forms of study is a smooth transition that can expand their love of learning about dinosaurs into learning about many fields of study.
It is really amazing to be around a child who can accurately tell you all about the Brontosaurus or Tyrannosaurus Rex and about what the difference is between the Jurassic period of geological history and the Triassic period or the Paleozoic periods. Many times children or youth will seek out this education because of their fascination with fossils, dinosaurs and paleontology. When they “discover” facts about the ancient past, they will have surfaced a love of history and the methods used to research ancient secrets.
This can easily be used to expand that thrill of discovery to a passion for history that can be used to transform an area of school life from something boring and dry to something exciting and full of fun. Any teacher who had a classroom full of students for history class who had that kind of enthusiasm will have a wonderful time revealing more of history’s mysteries to them.
Since paleontology and archeology are areas of applied science, many children and young people will become fascinated with the methods and processes a skilled paleontologist will use to find, excavate and preserve fossils that are millions of years old. So the scientific method quickly becomes an important part of that passion which can be connected to other aspects of science including chemistry, math, geology and related studies.
One of the greatest mysteries about the dinosaurs is the question of what led to their destruction. Theories as diverse as a comet hitting the planet to an alien invasion to global climate change (the most likely explanation) all have had their day and continue to be explored by historians and geologists alike. The fact that an entire species that dominated the earth could be destroyed by the environment can make an environmentalist of us all including the very young.
This can birth a love of environmental studies that could become a lifelong passion and perhaps a career of the future. If the teachers of children today can produce scholars of the future using the natural fascination that youth have with fossils and dinosaurs, then we all benefit.