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Fossils fun for curious young minds

IMG 4211If you had to make an educated guess about what colour a dinosaur might have been, what would you say?

One of the 200 students from Hawke’s Bay schools who attended Meeting of the Minds this week at the National Aquarium of New Zealand could help you come up with a suitable answer.

The students, aged from 9 to 12, spent a day at the National Aquarium, exploring the scientific field of palaeontology - the study of fossil animals and plants.

Palaeontology was the theme for this year’s Meeting of the Minds, an annual event run by the National Aquarium for talented/gifted children from Years 5 through to 8.

The students had the option of completing an extra challenge as well, researching a famous palaeontologist or a type of dinosaur which had been found in New Zealand, for an entry for the Jock McKenzie Award. The Award is named for the late Massey University science education adviser who had a lot of contact with local schools.

Nine of the ten students whose challenge efforts resulted in highly commended or a top three spot returned to the National Aquarium on Wednesday to find out who won. Pattrisha Mihaka and Brooke Nees, from Hastings Intermediate, and Taika King, from St Patrick’s School, Napier.

“It has been an amazing opportunity for students to unearth some of the mysteries surrounding dinosaurs and how scientists come to conclusions about these ancient animals, such as figuring out what colours dinosaurs were,” says Rachel Haydon, Project Lead, National Aquarium.

Participants were able to see how scientists had used what they know about the colours of living animals, such as those at the National Aquarium, to inform their conclusions about colouration that dinosaurs may have had. They were able to examine fossils themselves, and carry out their own investigations of dinosaur skeletons to see what evidence they offered up to palaeontologists.

“The caliber of this year’s submissions for the Award was incredible,” said Rachel, “making it very difficult to choose the winners, and leading to a few highly commended as a result!”

Meeting of the Minds is just one of the programmes run by the National Aquarium education team, alongside the school visits and school holiday workshops they run. These include Biodiversity Day, for years 1 to 3, and a careers day for Years 7 to 10 students interested in working in jobs that involve science.

Image: Fossil fans – from left, Jock McKenzie Award finalists Annabel Allan, Madisyn Bulled, Pattrisha Mihaka, Brooke Nees, Manawa Rakete, Tyler Manson, Joshua Madder, Angus Palairet, Lachie Coleman with three of the projects – models of a sauropod, palaeontology site and Dino Zoo. Absent, Taika King).


30 July 2019

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