STUDENTS | April 12, 2019
A third-grade class at Edwards Elementary was treated to a Jurassic Park adventure of their own after visiting the University of Chicago’s Fossil Lab.
Thanks to nine-year-old Robert Young, the creator of the website Dinology, an adult and kid-friendly space dedicated to all things dinosaur, his entire class was invited to visit the fossil lab.
Guided by world-renowned paleontologist Paul Sereno, students toured workspaces, viewed fossil remains, and even learned how students at the university make exact replicas of extinct animals.
The school’s third-grade teacher, Elaina Rosa, said the idea for the trip began with a computer science assignment she gave her students.
“I invited my third graders to think of something they really enjoyed and to try to build a basic website around that topic,” said Rosa. “The purpose of this task was for students to explore Google Sites while I led them through the basics of website development and design.”
Young was one of the students who went the extra mile, she said.
“I found Robert’s project so impressive because he dove in with such a clear purpose,” said Rosa. “He used every spare moment to continue building it up, even after the project had concluded.”
His website, Dinology, has one section which is dedicated to the sizes and heights of certain dinosaurs, while another suggests books you should read if you love dinosaurs.
Young said he was motivated to create the website because he hopes to turn his love for dinosaurs into a career one day.
“I chose to make my project about dinosaurs because I want to be a paleontologist,” said Young. “I love dinosaurs and I want everyone to learn about dinosaurs.”
Impressed by Young’s enthusiasm, Rosa reached out to Sereno in hopes that Young would be able to see his aspirations brought to life. The response was quick, she said.
“[Sereno] sent his compliments to Robert and suggested that he and his classmates come to the University of Chicago to visit the Fossil Lab,” said Rosa. “This was incredibly special as I later learned that Robert was already a huge Paul Sereno fan – he was so excited!”
Sereno said he knew he had to invite Rosa and her students to his lab because of their “initiative.”
“In CPS, there are stellar teachers that love their students and love their schools,” said Sereno. “When you see a child or a teacher that is showing a lot of initiative, you really want to try to reward that.”
Young said meeting Sereno was like a dream come true.
“My favorite part of the trip was when I got to see Paul Sereno and he answered all our questions,” said Young. “I was excited because I want to be a paleontologist and I got to meet a really good one.”
His favorite moment, he said, was learning “dinosaurs have all our same bones.”
Sereno says part of his work as a paleontologist and professor has been to inspire students of all ages to keep learning.
“Because I struggled as a kid in school, I’ve always wanted to communicate and break down the barriers of science,” said Sereno. “My dream is to create a space that creates learning opportunities for all students.”
Rosa said she hopes the trip encourages students to keep chasing their ambitions.
“I’m hoping that the students are inspired by the entire experience to pursue their passions,” said Rosa. “How often does a child catch the attention of one of their idols and then get invited to meet them? It felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity.”