This morning, our daughter screamed for us to come and look at what she made us for breakfast.
“It’s ancient food! It’s what people ate a long, long time ago!”
MMMM…..delectable! Not recommended for people with dentures. Or teeth.
She had pulled various rocks, minerals, crystals and fossils from the kids’ natural sensory collection. When we walk shorelines or any plot of land, they pick up interesting rocks to add to it. It makes our walks fun.
This was as good a time as any for a science lesson.
We pulled out our favorite book about fossils. I cannot resist a good kid science book. I think we might have bought this one, Fossils: An Extraordinary World Close-Up, before our daughter was even born.
This book has a built-in timeline that shows when ammonites existed in relation to other forms of life. It lists the timeframe as between 251 million and 65 million years ago.
How could I translate this to our daughter so she might understand?
I checked the Smithsonial National Museum of Natural History site to learn about what timeframes humans (homo sapiens) first emerged:
It said that homo sapiens evolved in Africa and that they lived from about 200,000 years ago to present day.
Here’s what we did together to figure out if humans really did eat ammonites…..
We used popsicle sticks to represent our timeline.
I asked my daughter how long she thought one hundred million years was….
“It’s a lot. It’s like one thousand years!!!!!!”
Time is a hard thing to conceptualize for a kid- even for adults, I think.
Learning the amount of time was not important but maybe we could compare the relative time that humans had been alive to the amount of time that ammonites were alive.
- Each popsicle stick represented one hundred million years.
- The ammonites were alive for 2 and a half popsicle sticks.
- Some dinosaurs were alive for about one stick.
- And then ammonites and dinosaurs became extinct. There’s a gap.
- Half a popsicle stick later, and for one, little, itty, bitty moment- humans came alive and are still here.
There we are. That little black line on the end of the last popsicle stick.
Our daughter could place her entire hand on the popsicle sticks for the ammonite’s existence but not even a single finger could fit on the little line for that of humans.
Some of the questions we toyed with:
Did humans eat ammonites?
Sure! They chopped them up and heated them in the microwave.
No, really. Were humans alive when the ammonites were alive?
We referred to the timeline for that. After counting the sticks, she understood the gap between ammonites and humans showed how long the ammonites had been extinct.
Who was/is alive longer on Earth?
That’s when she used her hands and fingers to measure the length of the sticks to determine that ammonites had been around for much, much longer than humans.
And this activity led us to choose The Extinct Alphabet Book as our pre-nap book.
By the end of the morning, we had done a few interesting exercises. When our daughter awoke, she invited her family to a play food party.
She still served us ammonite fossils, but said, “I know these are extinct but you’re going to pretend to eat them anyway.”
And we did.
They were very pretend-delicious.
Any Other Ideas On How To Help Kids Understand Time?