Dinosaurs are fantasy creatures to children. Imagine real monsters that
roamed the Earth at one time. No horror story could be more exciting. In
contrast, "cute" commercial dinosaur toys and products are
sometimes geared to sell to the public. It is your job as a teacher to make
students aware of these misconceptions.
Here are some common misconceptions that you should discuss and correct
with your students.
- Dinosaurs did not live with people. "Fred Flintstone" and
"Dino" could not have really lived together. Dinosaurs
disappeared more than 60 million years before humans appeared on Earth.
Define dinosaurs very clearly as a group of extinct animals that lived
on the Earth a long time ago. They were probably related to the reptiles
and birds of today
- You cannot go into your backyard and pick up dinosaur bones. There are
only a few good dinosaur localities in the United States, notably Utah
- Dinosaurs were probably not all different colors. The colors probably
ranged from green to brown to some shades of purple. Some dinosaurs may
have even had feathers.
- Dinosaurs are not found with their skeletons intact. Most of the
fossils are disarticulated (not together) bones. Usually many individual
bones are missing from the reconstructed skeleton. It is difficult for
paleontologists to reconstruct dinosaurs with only a few bones.
- Many dinosaurs were small. Dinosaurs are not the largest animals that
ever lived. The Blue Whale which swims in today's ocean is the largest
animal known to have lived on the Earth.
- Dinosaurs are extinct. Extinct means that all the individuals
belonging to one type of plant or animal are dead. Once a group is
extinct, it never reappears. The dinosaurs have been extinct for 65
million years. Your students will have difficulty grasping the magnitude
of that many years (we all do), so just emphasize that dinosaurs have
been extinct for a long, long time. Ask the class if they can think of
any other animals or plants that are extinct. Woolly mammoths,
saber-toothed cats, trilobites, and dodos are some possible answers.
- Most modern grasses and flowers were not on the Earth when the
dinosaurs roamed it.
- The word "Dinosaur" actually refers to two major groups [Saurischia
(lizard hipped) and Ornithischia (bird hipped)] of extinct animals that
lived 65 through 230 million years ago.
- Explain to students that an important difference between modern
reptiles and dinosaurs is that dinosaurs are now extinct. You may want
to go over some of the other misconceptions discussed above.
- Use the "Dinosaur" slideshow to
illustrate misconceptions of dinosaurs. Use pages 1-4 to help
illustrate what is wrong with the pictures. On page 1 compare the
two dinosaurs. On page 2 ask students whether dinosaurs went to
school. On page 3, Fred Flintstone is using a purple dinosaur for
moving rocks. Point out that people and dinosaurs did not roam on
Earth at the same time. Dinosaurs are extinct. On page 4
have students look at the sizes of dinosaurs and compare with elephants
and man. Also note that dinosaurs were the largest land animal,
but blue whale, which is living today, was even bigger!
- Show the large Carnegie dinosaur models to students. Ask the students
to compare and contrast the different models. Describe the heads, teeth,
claws, length of tails, methods of walking, and any other features of
- Instruct students to look at the coloring exercise and have them point
out what is wrong with this picture. They should realize that children
and dinosaurs did not live together and grasses and palm trees were not
abundant when dinosaurs were dominant.