Girl using a tool to separate chocolate chips from a cookie


 Third Graders Explore the World of Dinosaurs

Can you outrun a dinosaur? How did whales live in the Grande Ronde Valley millions of years ago? What does a paleontologist really do?

These are the questions more than 40 third graders at Island City Elementary have been tackling as they explored their annual dinosaur learning unit. Third grade teachers Sophia Berenson and Holly Wagner designed the unit to incorporate lots of interactive learning across multiple disciplines including science, art, physical education (P.E.) and physics.

The third graders made fossils from clay, discovered that the valley where they live used to be covered by ocean and created art. After learning about dinosaur tracks, they hit the school gym for an obstacle course to explore strides of different dinosaurs and how their own stride matched up.

And they loved it. “Kids love dinosaurs. Incorporating so much hands-on learning sparks their curiosity and the natural part of what they want to explore,” said Wagner.

One project of the three-week unit was an online Junior Paleontologist program where students learn at their own pace and virtually visit dig sites. Berenson said the teachers also share much of the students’ work and progress with parents. “What the students really enjoy is the diversity of this unit’s activities, which really engages them, and they love sharing that with their parents,” Berenson said.

What was the best activity? Some students would say the “cookie dig”, where they removed the “fossils” (the chocolate chips) from cookies and the crumbs were the “dirt.” All in a day’s work for these third graders.