It needs to be said in ALL CAPS. It just must. To say that I’m excited is an understatement. Last year, Dinovember was one of my favourite time spent with my kindergartners. I have such fond memories of it, and the bond that I formed with my students because of it, that it wasn’t even a question to me whether or not I would participate in it again, with this new class. It made a lasting impression on those students, and, it must be said, it made a lasting impression on me.
Dinovember was started by one family, that wanted to reinstill that sense of wonder in their children. If you’re around my age (and loved Toy Story), you’ll recognize the concept: the toy dinosaurs come to life while the children are sleeping, and usually get into a little bit of mischief. As somebody who was fascinated by the wonder that is Elf on a Shelf, I was looking for something similar to do with my classroom, but had decided against Elf on a Shelf for a couple of reasons: I work in a public school, and didn’t want to choose a classroom activity that was overtly related to a holiday that might not be a holiday my students celebrate; most of my students already did Elf on a Shelf at home, so I didn’t want to take away that special moment from parents, and besides, shouldn’t the kids get a break from the watchful eyes of their Elf for at least a few hours a day? That’s why, when I read about Dinovember, I thought to myself, “What a perfect compromise!” It’s all of the sense of wonder that Elf on a Shelf has, without the eyes in the North Pole. And it’s about the toys that we have in our classroom! Win/win for me, right?
Yesterday, I rushed into work, anxious to put my plan in motion.
The dinosaurs wrote a note to us, and began exploring in the toy sandbox. Several reasons, of course: one, with the lid on, it was the perfect place for the dinosaurs to hide and have them “accidentally” be discovered; two, it gave the students the opportunity to find the whole scene, and really take in that letter, in one awesome, fantastic and magical discovery when they lifted the lid up; and three, because I had just changed the sandbox center a couple of days before, and wasn’t having any luck getting kids interested in the new set-up at the sandbox. Check and mate, little kinders …
The students were a little skeptical, until we read the letter. Then, I told them about my experiences with the dinosaurs from last year, with my last kindergarten class, and K.V. raised his hand: “Mme, they must have followed you here!” he exclaimed. And just like, the students were hooked.
We’ve changed the rules of Dinovember a teeny bit, but the spirit remains. When we leave the class, these wonderful dinosaurs come to life and play with our things in class, just like we do. They’re a little shy, though, and don’t like to come to life while we’re at school. Several reasons have been thrown out for why they might not come alive while we’re at school (and not one of them include, “Because, duh, they’re toys!”). These reasons range from, “Maybe it’s because they don’t want to scare us,” courtesy of P.T., all the way to, “Because dinosaurs and humans don’t mix in real life,” said B.B.
This morning, the students ran into the classroom, eagerly anticipating where the dinosaurs might be. “The lid was off of the sandbox!” many of them exclaimed when they walked in. The hunt was on! And where did we find them? In the sink, of all places, having a bath with some bubbles. “Why?” I asked the students. “Why would they need a bath?”. C.H. answered, “Because we have to keep clean and take baths to stay clean!” And so, we learned about hygiene.
Last year, the dinosaurs sparked our first inquiry. I’m hoping that the same will be accomplished. But even if it doesn’t, I’m not that worried about it. These dinosaurs are teaching us letters; they’re teaching us numbers; they’re teaching us reading; they’re teaching us writing; they’re inspiring drawings; they’re inspiring stories; they’re inspiring our sense of wonder; they’re allowing us to come together as a classroom family, and bonding us in a way that we were finding tough, given our late start in the year together; they’re setting our imaginations ablaze.
These dinosaurs are just what we needed.