Hutchison Alumna Shares Animal Bone Collection with JK Girls Studying Fossils
JK girls aren’t scared of these bones! They were fearless and loved being scientists as they took a closer look at the animal bone collection of Lauren Pharr Parks ’02, alumna and mom to Patty Mae ’36.
Junior kindergarten girls watched in awe and with excitement as Lauren Pharr Parks ’02 showed them the skulls of animals including a horse, cow, pig, alligator gar, coyote, and rabbit. Parks is a leading forensic anthropologist, holds a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University in geography/anthropology, and owns her own consulting firm. When she heard that her daughter's class was learning about bones, fossils, and dinosaurs, Parks was happy to give Patty Mae and her classmates a glimpse of her work and how it is related to their studies.
The girls enjoyed comparing the sizes of the skulls and bones from other body parts of some animals, such as teeth, hips, and shoulder bones. One thing the girls have learned in their classrooms is the difference between herbivores and carnivores. Looking at the skulls that Parks brought in gave them the opportunity to determine what each animal ate based on the shape of their teeth. The girls’ teachers were very impressed with their knowledge.
JK girls became interested in the bones of other animals after studying the human body. The girls studied the heart earlier this school year, and JK teacher Amanda Valentine said they were intrigued after hearing how certain animals have large hearts, slow heartbeats, and big bones, like the elephant.
In this study, they got to be paleontologists! The classes looked at fossils to see what scientists have learned from the different bones of extinct animals, leading to a further study of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. “We studied how the fossils teach us about the world and what we can learn from animals’ bones, footprints, and fossils, even though the animals are extinct,” Valentine said.
The teachers have tied the study of dinosaurs into classroom centers as well. Girls have sorted bones by size, designed prehistoric habitats, and made dinosaur eggs. Dance teacher Louisa Koeppel even had the girls move as if they were dinosaurs in ballet class; they stretched up into the trees to eat leaves like herbivores, dipped into the water to eat fish like carnivores, and soared in the air with dinosaur wings. This study exemplifies how our early childhood teachers follow a Reggio Emilia-inspired approach to learning, which encourages each girl to engage in self-directed, exploratory learning to gain both knowledge of herself and the world around her.