Some local children got to participate in some summer school this week. Dino Academy at the Sherman Museum allowed children to look at the ice age animals currently on display at the museum while also learning history and science and doing arts and crafts.
“Keeping kids excited about being in school is important,” Austin College student and Dino Academy teacher Taylor Spurgin said. “Knowledge is one of the biggest tools that we can use in the future. There is so much negativity in the world and knowledge is empowering. I get excited when I see the children get excited. It is the summer, but we want them to have fun while they are learning.”
During the Tuesday classes, students learned about different dinosaurs and got to make fossil handprints. Through fossils, Spurgin said, scientists have been able to classify animals.
“Wednesday, we are going to bring out the antlers and show the children how the males that have big antlers were more preferred by the females,” she said on Tuesday. “They were more masculine and they were tougher because they would fight each other. The one that won would become the alpha male.”
Spurgin used the dinosaurs on display at Dino Days in her lessons along with dinosaur videos.
“We have a dimetrodon upstairs,” she said. “They have a very large fin which is a sign of masculinity and can also be used to cool them off. We are also going to identify the different parts of animals that will help us identify what they are. We are also going to talk about dino teeth.”
During the Wednesday and Thursday classes, children also got to use Play-Doh to make dinosaur teeth. For meat eaters, Spurgin said, the children made sharp teeth and for the plant eaters, the children made flat teeth.
“We will also talk about the ice age and the other things that went on during that period,” she said.
Spurgin said she did not have opportunities to go to events like Dino Academy when she was younger.
“That is one of the reasons I like doing things with children,” she said. “I have learned so many things while working here. The kids teach me stuff. That happens all the time. It gives me hope that children are still excited about learning. We want to keep it up so that children get excited about this going on into college.”
Incorporating arts and crafts into learning is important, Spurgin said, because it helps the children remember what they have learned and it teaches them that learning can be fun.
“We are not here to just throw information at you, we want the children to understand it and enjoy it,” she said.
This is the first time that Carter Harris, 8, have been to the Dino Academy, but this is not the first time she has been to Dino Days at the museum.
“I liked last year’s Dino Days better because I already know a lot about Mesozoic stuff,” he said. “I don’t have a favorite dinosaur. It is more of an ancient crocodile sarcosuchus.”
Harris said the most interesting thing that he learned was about dinosaur sizes.
“The stegodon is really big,” he said. “I was surprised that all that weight put on the ground was not smashing the ground.”
Carter said he would like to invite his friends to the Sherman Museum because there are a lot of cool fossils.
“I like everything about dinosaurs,” Abigail, 5, said. “Acrocathesaurus is cool. Some of the dinosaurs are kind of hard to say.”
Spurgin worked with Abigail on spelling dinosaur names.
“There are a lot of amazing things and a lot of things that you have never heard of before or have ever been before,” Abigail said.