Family Life of the Dinosaur Supports Lessons in Paleontology

Rare Look at the Life of Dinosaurs Through the Lens of their Eggs, Nests & Young

Young paleontologists unite! Resources for learning about dinosaurs abound here in western Massachusetts. From museum exhibits to hands-on paleontology activities to natural wonders, our region is rich with experiential and place-based opportunities for learning about the prehistoric creatures of the past.

Trends come and go, but there are some topics which fascinate children across generations. One such topic is dinosaurs! Extinct species tell us a lot about evolution, biology, and the history of the Earth. Dinosaurs are particularly interesting because of their, in some cases, massive size. While birds are modern day descendants of dinosaurs, it is a challenging and fun exercise to try to imagine bird-like creatures being much bigger than humans, like the Tyrannosaurus Rex, which stood up to twenty feet tall! See a life-sized replica at the Springfield Museums and an actual skull at the Beneski Museum at Amherst College (both in their permanent collections) for an exciting comparison of just HOW much bigger these creatures were! Read the rest of this entry »

Dino-Centric Studies in Western MA

Upcoming Events Highlight Local Paleontology Connections

Western Massachusetts’ natural history is one of epic proportions – dinosaurs loved our local landscape! In addition to the numerous year-round community-based opportunities to explore paleontology, families can take advantage of upcoming community events in order to further explore dino-centric studies, including Dinosaur Hunter, Paul Sereno!

Here in western Massachusetts, dinosaurs play a huge role in the history of our landscape.

A wealth of community-based educational resources help to support paleontological studies of all kinds, and the local connection to dinosaurs can help budding paleontologists put their dinosaur-centric knowledge into a local context.

To support locally based studies of all things dinosaurs, families can utilize learning opportunities offered by two upcoming events.

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Every Kid in a (National) Park!

Every Kid in a Park Offers 4th Graders a National Park Free-for-All!

During the 2015-2016 school year, families of 4th graders can gain free access to all of the country’s fantastic national parks! Whether by exploring Massachusetts’ historic sites and national seashore or dreaming about mountainous parks out west, families can engage in both experiential and inspired learning about the treasures our park system has to offer.

Just because summer is quickly waning doesn’t mean that family adventures have to come to an end – and why should they, when national parks have been more accessible to families than ever before! Thanks to the Every Kid in a Park initiative, families that include a 4th grade student (or a home- or un-schooled child of the equivalent age) can visit any of the United States’ national parks for free during the 2015-2016 school year. Every Kid in a Park gives families opportunities to engage experientially in studies of the natural and cultural history of our country, and helps to promote nature-based play and learning by inspiring families to explore the outdoors.

While Massachusetts is not home to any national parks showcasing vast tracts of unique land, the state is filled with national historic sites that speak to the role the state has played in American history – particularly during the 17th and 18th centuries. Locally, the Springfield Armory offers a military history immersion experience within day-trip distance of all of western Massachusetts. In addition to historic sites, a full list of Massachusetts parks reveals natural gems such as the Cap Cod National Seashore and the Boston Harbor Islands, locations that afford visitors the opportunity to explore the state’s Atlantic coastline. Read the rest of this entry »

Beneski Museum of Natural History at Amherst College

Beneski Museum of Natural History
Home of the World’s Largest Collection of
Dinosaur Tracks

Beneski Museum of Natural History

Click on the image to see 360° views of the Beneski Museum of Natural History at Amherst College. - The ground floor displays the world’s largest collection of dinosaur tracks (primarily from the Connecticut River Valley), skulls of a Tyrannosaurus rex and a Triceratops and a diorama with a model showing what some of our local dinosaur species might have looked like. There is also a cast of a dinosaur track “book” that visitors can handle.

Did you know that the world’s largest collection of dinosaur tracks is housed at Amherst College in the Beneski Museum of Natural History?  The Museum offers opportunities for families and students to learn about the natural history of the Pioneer Valley and many other parts of the world.  There are over 1,700 specimens (including skeletons of a mammoth, cave bear, and saber-tooth cat, and skulls of a tyrannosaurus rex and a triceratops!), some from as far away as Patagonia, housed at the Museum, along with several collections, including anthropology, ichnology, meteorites, mineralogy, osteology, paleobotany and taxidermy.

There are three levels to the museum, with an entire floor dedicated to local geological phenomena, such as glaciation and mountain building- point out the Holyoke Range to your kids on you way to visit, then learn how it was created at the museum.

  1. When you arrive you will find on the Entrance Level Ice Age Mammals and the Evolution of the Horse.
  2. Travel to the Upper Level to see Human Evolution, Geology of the Connecticut River Valley and Bedrock Geology Model.
  3. The down to the Lower Level to check out the Hitchcock Ichnology Collection and Mesozoic Reptiles.

The museum’s resources offer several ways to supplement lessons on natural history.  Before arriving, print out their self guided tour of the Vertebrate Fossils in the museum, and go on a quest with your kids/students when you arrive to locate and learn about vertebrate fossils.  And get your kids excited about their  Oddities of the Natural History Museum Collection by screening an audio slide show together online beforehand.

To arrange a guided tour of the museum for your youth group or school, email Alfred J. Venne, Museum Educator, at avenne@amherst.edu. – The museum’s regular hours are Tuesday-Sunday from 11am-4pm, and Thursdays from 6-10pm. Admission is free.  For more information visit www.amherst.edu/museums/naturalhistory.

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