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Dinosaur Discovery

Eagle Times - Sunday, February 15, 2004

Fitting dinosaurs in the classroom

Patrick Hayden photo

EXTINCT -- Nancy Walker developed an educational program called Dinosaur Discovery. Using laser technology and computer design programs she constructs four different skeletons out of chipboard, and three of them are true to life in size.

By Josh Adams, Staff Writer

Unity, NH - Instead of the usual pint-sized critters in a mayonnaise jar for science class how about a life-sized dinosaur?

Nancy Walker is crazy about these extinct reptiles and was looking for ways to incorporate her fascination into the rest of her life when she developed an educational program called Dinosaur Discovery. Using laser technology and computer design programs she constructs four different skeletons out of chipboard, and three of them are true to life in size.

“I can get it as scientifically accurate as possible,” said Walker, 56, a former occupational therapist and office manager.
She builds two-dimensional jigsaw puzzles as the crux of a lesson plan for grades K-6 that incorporate science, math, art and English. She sells the package mainly from an Internet site and word of mouth advertising, and has fulfilled orders in Singapore and Malaysia.

The Protoceratops and Hypsilophodon are her two dinosaur skeletons that accurately reflect the size of the extinct reptiles. An Ichthyosaurus is also a life-size depiction of Walker’s work and is an extinct marine reptile. These three creatures were at least six feet long and two feet tall.

Of course her top seller is the Tyrannosaurus rex kit, which stands over 10 feet tall despite being a quarter of the creature’s actual size.

“I think they’re all interesting,” commented Walker of the public’s fascination with the carnivore.

Eighteen years ago Walker was helping her son learn about dinosaurs through a school project and she fell in love with the creatures. In 1998 she created the business she runs now and has since sold some 300 fossil kits. Each kit has 25 to 34 hand painted “bones” depending on which animal is chosen. A completed photo of the skeleton for instructors to reference along with facts about the skeleton and the animal it belonged to are included in the kits.

Walker also encourages students to trace the completed skeleton on a large piece of paper she includes, allowing them to artistically render the animal’s skin as it may have been.

Walker’s knowledge of the creatures and her teaching tool have earned her a spot at the Museum of Science in Boston, Mass. where she has taught a class since 1994 called Dino Doings. The three hour course gives young kids a taste of paleontology. A class scheduled for March 13 is already full and another is slated for April 17.

“It tends to be highly successful,” said Program Manager of Courses for the museum Sheila Jasalavich.

Walker said she has not sold many of her kits in New Hampshire but second-grade teacher Carol Jeffs at the Centre School in Hampton has a kit she can’t wait to use.

“We had purchased a T-rex,” said Jeffs noting the size of the model. “That would be pretty incredible for the kids to see.”

Jeffs said she was attracted to the idea of letting the students “dig” for the separate pieces on school grounds and reconstruct something larger than the kids themselves.

Jeffs said she bought the kit at the end of the last school year but was not able to use it due to weather. She hopes to send the kids outside in the spring to discover their dinosaur.

 

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