By Ainslie Beattie
Looming out across the lake in front of us lie dinosaurs – 160-year-old dinosaurs! They look huge, ominous and exciting! Most people just get to look at them from the vantage point of the walkway… not us! Transition Kids and Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs get special treatment because we are collecting data for the Natural History Museum Microverse project.
She introduces Dr Anna Jungblut from the Natural History Museum who developed the Microverse project, which aims to uncover the diversity of microscopic life on UK buildings. Anna explains to the kids all about the microverse and what is interesting about the bugs on the surface of the dinosaurs – or their DNA for our purposes!
To open the process up to younger kids within the Transition Town has exposed our group to real-world science within their own environment.
Developing an understanding of how the environment is impacted by weather, microbes, climate events and people is key to developing an understanding of the world around us and how we can interact with it. The younger that learning starts, the better for their education, and our future.
The group separated into two, one focusing on sampling the dinos. They were taught about sterile conditions for collecting samples, donned their gloves and got down to business.
Even today, scientists are still discussing the likely skin surface of these great beasts. There is new evidence to suggest that some dinos had feathers rather than scaly skin!
Whilst we didn’t draw feathers, the kids had a go at rubbing the skin surface to discover what the patterns might look like. Maybe we can turn this into a papier mâché dinosaur at an upcoming event and match the patterns to the ‘real’ ones.
After about an hour on the island, with all kids and quite a few adults getting to sample the Dino DNA, we had to leave our new friends and come back to the mainland.
The kids spent a bit more time exploring the other amazing creatures that populate that part of Crystal Palace Park and then we regrouped for a quick overview of what we had discovered, seen and explored.
As a first event for Transition Kids, the Dino expedition was engaging, exciting and completely different. We will now be running monthly events for kids aged 8-15, exploring nature, science and the world around us. There is a possibility of creating our own Transition Kids growing space to explore growing and cooking our own food, and lots more science events to follow. During the summer break we will take the kids who participated in the Dino DNA event to the Natural History Museum to explore a bit further the Microverse and meet some other scientists actively researching our environment.
Many thanks go to the staff and students from the NMH who turned up at our event to help and share their knowledge. Extra special thanks to Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs – without whom the event would not have happened, and without whom the Dinosaurs would not be so well preserved. Also a huge thanks to Stefan Ferreira for all the great photos featured here.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have an event or project you would like us to explore with our Transition Kids.