What were dinosaurs really like? Were they hairy? Feathered? Did they roar or did they sing? And how did they slide toward extinct? This popular activity looks at where the facts come from: fossils. During sessions young people search through piles of ancient fossilised bones for signs of extinct dinosaurs, 'super-predator' crocodiles and ancient insects trapped in fossilised amber. What evidence will they find? And what hypotheses might they draw about the way life was in the past?

Scaly tyrant? Think again. Most scientists now agree Tyrannosaurus rex was probably hairy, like this gorgeous CGI reconstruction (used with permission from Saurian). But how can a fossil tell us about hair?

What do you bring?


In this interactive workshop pupils get a chance to uncover the mysteries of ancient life on Earth, and discover what life as a scientist is really like.

As well as holding fossilised bones and teeth of extinct crocodiles, sharks and dinosaurs (including T. rex replicas), pupils also get to search for their own ancient insects trapped in million year old amber, discovering more about ancient ecosystems and habitats. This is the only activity of its kind in the world.


Fossils (include): fossil shark teeth (hundreds), plesiosaur vertebrate, ancient crocodile vertebrae, t-rex teeth and t-rex baby skull (replicas), liopleurodon teeth (replicas), stegosaurus plates (replicas), archaeopteryx skull (replica), belemnites, ammonites, mammoth tusk fragments, trilobites, sea urchins, fossil fish, mosasaur teeth and coprolites (dinosaur dung) - and much, much more...


Equipment and resources: projector, digital microscope, laptop, identification sheets, magnifying glasses.

What do you cover in the workshop?


Each session is focused on the DoE’s 2014 science programme of study and is made to measure for KS1 or KS2 audiences. Timings of discussions are approximate.

INTRODUCTION: WHAT IS A FOSSIL? (5 minutes): Jules welcomes pupils and discusses fossils (using dinosaur fossil examples): What are they? How useful they have been in telling scientists about ancient life?

THE CREATURES THAT ONCE LIVED IN BRITAIN (15 minutes): Pupils are challenged by Jules to identify the fossil creatures (in white trays) that used to live millions of years ago in England, with Jules’s help and with use of special identification keys. Jules explains the diversity of life on Earth and the story that fossils give us: that much of Britain was underwater, and that the seas were filled with enormous reptiles (and lots else)…

WHAT IS AMBER? (15 minutes): Jules outlines to pupils the use of amber by scientists attempting to understand the ancient habitats in which dinosaurs lived. Jules uses a digital microscope to show pupils the preserved wonders within amber (mosquitos, beetles, ants, wasps…). Pupils are challenged by Jules to look through hundreds of pieces of Madagascan amber to find their own pieces of evidence for ancient life. What do their findings tell us about ancient habitats? (Finishes with microscopy session on big screen).

DISCUSSION AND Q&A: (10 minutes – 30 minutes): How can we tell what killed off most of the dinosaurs? What ideas are there for what caused their apparent, almost total, extinction? How can we find evidence for these hypotheses? And what about the dinosaurs that survived? Jules leads the discussions and answers any questions that the pupils might have, covering what the latest science is telling us.


Jules is happy to cover the following topics, which correspond with the DoE’s 2014 science programme of study:

•    Year 1: Identifying fossil animals / carnivores, herbivores, omnivores?
•    Year 2: Understanding ancient habitats / adaptations
•    Year 3: How are fossils formed? What can they tell us about ancient life?
•    Year 4: Classification (in the fossil record)
•    Year 5: Life cycles of ancient insects, amphibians mammals and birds 
•    Year 6: Evolution and inheritance (rise of mammals).

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