Below are some talking points and activities to pass the time, all relating to today’s story.
Discuss the ideas presented in the story with your family—at home or over video conferencing. Find ways to involve as many people as possible, especially those who you know are isolated by the lock-down.
- Looking through the illustrations of prehistoric sea creatures, how does each one look familiar, and how does it look different? What do you think of the squalodontid – the shark-toothed dolphin, pictured here seizing a giant penguin in its teeth?
- Ewan Fordyce is New Zealand’s only cetacean palaeobiologist. What can you figure out about what he does for a living, based on your knowledge of these words? Guess what you can first, then look up anything you’re not sure of. (For an extra challenge – how quickly can you say ‘cetacean palaeobiologist?’)
- North Otago’s limestone country has been marketed as the “Vanished World Trail” and allows visitors to access prehistoric fossil sites on private farmland – so you can go and see things like the skeleton of a giant penguin where it was deposited on the ocean floor millions of years ago. It was also a location for The Chronicles of Narnia. Is this a place you’d be excited to go and visit? What can you find out about where the trail is, how you’d get there and what you’d try to see?
- “This valley is a time capsule, filled with the memories of creatures from another era.” Can you explain how the limestone hills of North Otago came to be filled with layers of the bones of sea creatures?
- Scientists examine the fossils for clues as to the creature’s identity – such as tiny protrusions on the ear bone. Why might it be considered important to keep trying to figure out what creatures lived in the past, and how they are linked to living creatures today?
Activity: Make a Solar Cookie Oven
You don’t need electricity to make a batch of biscuits – a box and a few bits and pieces from the pantry are all you need, provided it’s a sunny day!
You will need:
- A pizza box or some other kind of relatively flat box
- Black paper
- Kebab sticks
- Some tape
- Plastic kitchen wrap
Step One: Cut a large flap in the lid of the pizza box, leaving the hinged edge along the back of the lid. Cover the inside of the flap and the inside of the base of the box with tinfoil.
Put a piece of black paper on the bottom of the box and put your uncooked cookies on it.
Step Three: Prop the flap up at an angle that allows the sun to reflect the tinfoil on the top down onto the cookies. Use the kebab sticks to prop it up. Cover the cookies with plastic kitchen wrap (tape this into place so it doesn’t blow away.) After about two hours your cookies will be ready to eat – they might not be as crisp as if they’d been cooked in a conventional oven but they should be delicious!