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Ethan's Dinosaurs:  For Parents

This page is for parents of young dinosaur fanatics. 

Islands of expertise 

Imagination 

Why do kids love dinosaurs? 

   
Islands of Expertise

I published an article in the September, 2002, issue of Chicago Parent called, "Islands of expertise:  Why do children become such specialists?"  Here's a quote from the article:

"Islands of expertise" is a term coined by Kevin Crowley, Ph.D., an educational researcher at University of Pittsburgh who studies the ways that children and parents learn together in museums ( http://www.kevincrowley.com ). It refers to the areas of relatively deep and rich knowledge children develop when they are passionately interested in something like dinosaurs, Pokémon, rocks, turtles and other things. These islands emerge over weeks or months as children talk, read and learn about their passions.

You can read the complete article here:
   < http://saltthesandbox.org/ChicagoParentArticle2.htm >

The next section didn't make it into the published version of my article, but I think it's still important.

  
Imagination

This spring I volunteered at a dinosaur festival sponsored by Wonder Works, a new children’s museum starting up in Oak Park < http://www.wonder-works.org/ >.  They gave me a white t-shirt with the Wonder Works logo on the front and a quote on the back—“Imagination is more important than knowledge,” attributed to Albert Einstein. 

Here’s a more complete version of the quote:  "I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination.  Imagination is more important than knowledge.  Knowledge is limited.  Imagination encircles the world."

Was Einstein right?  Is imagination really more important than knowledge? Einstein was a physicist—maybe there was less he had to know about energy and matter than a paleontologist needs to know about the past.  To imagine the past, you need a thousand bits of knowledge.  But what paleontologists know about the past is as much a product of their imaginations as it is dusty fossils extracted from rocks.  Paleontologists—and dinosaur lovers of all ages—need both knowledge and imagination, and one can't function without the other.

Regardless of the relative importance of knowledge and imagination, I’m glad that Ethan has both.  And I enjoy watching how his knowledge and imagination feed off one another.  I love listening to his stories about real dinosaurs at imaginary Golpher Lake as much as love helping him build his island of expertise by playing T. rex attacked by small dinosaurs with killer claws.
  

Why Do Kids Love Dinosaurs?

Here's an article that provides a few answers to this question.  (This site has pop-up ads.)
   < http://www.familyeducation.com/article/0,1120,22-7720,00.html >

In his foreword to the Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs, Michael Crichton (author of Jurassic Park) discusses his thoughts about why kids are interested in dinosaurs. (At the end, he admits he doesn't know.)
   < http://darwin.apnet.com/dinosaur/dinofore.htm >

When my younger son, Aaron, turned his attention to dinosaurs, it was because he needed to act out family issues.  His big daddy T. rex had an ever growing, multi-species family of tiny plastic babies to watch over and protect.  Aaron said, "He's a good Daddy.  He doesn't eat his babies," and I was left to wonder what was really on his mind.  The following long, scholarly article develops Michael Crichton's themes in a way that sheds some light on why kids sometimes think about dinosaurs as parents of human children:
   < http://freenet.msp.mn.us/org/mythos/mythos.www/REX.HTML >

This site has results of a poll of students on a related topic, "Why should people bother to study about animals that are already extinct?"
   < http://www.cdlponline.org/education/edarchives/trex/showandtell.html >
 

 


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Copyright 2002 Eric D. Gyllenhaal
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Ethan's Dinosaurs is part of the Salt the Sandbox Web. 
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This page was created on August 17, 2002, and it was last updated on August 24, 2002.