Norbury dino garden

University creates spectacular life-size dinosaur garden at Derbyshire school

Wednesday, 28 June 2023

A Derbyshire primary school has opened a spectacular new dinosaur garden, featuring giant models and plants that have evolved from those in existence during the cretaceous period. 

The prehistoric garden at Norbury C of E Primary School in Ashbourne has been created by experts from the University of Nottingham. It’s the only school garden of its kind in the Midlands, allowing children to see science in action as well as giving them a greater awareness of careers in STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).



Dr Karen Braithwaite, Head of Veterinary, Medicine and Science Operations at the University of Nottingham, came up with the idea for the project after her young daughter started studying the topic of fossils.

Norbury is a unique school with exceptionally talented and creative teachers, and if anywhere would be open to the idea of a full-size Triceratops in the playing fields and Pterosaurs on the library roof, it would be Norbury. Our project will deliver across the curriculum, from life drawings of chickens in art through to mathematical modelling of speed and height from a life-size T.rex trackway.
Dr Karen Braithwaite, Head of Veterinary, Medicine and Science Operations at the University of Nottingham

 The garden, funded by a Royal Society partnership grant, is part of a wider project to engage young children with science through fun activities and wellbeing opportunities. The children at Norbury C of E school will investigate whether the Tyrannosaurus rex was simply a large, flightless chicken. They will study what we know about the T.rex and the chicken (T.rex’s nearest living relative) from many different aspects such as anatomy, geology, palaeontology and climate. They’ll also work with a range of experts, including anatomists, veterinary surgeons, geologists and geographers to learn more about each topic. Dr Mike Clark, one of the UKs leading poultry vets, will be talking to children about similarities between chickens and dinosaurs, as well dissecting a roast chicken to explore anatomy. Dr Emma Drinkall, Head of Nottingham’s Veterinary Innovation Centre, will be using 3D printing to explain evolution and Dr Georgie Bladon, Veterinary Educationalist, will discuss life as a vet and how comparative anatomy helps vets to solve new problems.

It's hoped that the resources and teaching materials from the project will be shared with other local schools to create more dinosaur gardens and inspire similar work schemes. Dr Catrin Rutland, Associate Professor of Anatomy and Developmental Genetics at the University of Nottingham has devised the programme.

By working with Norbury C of E school, we can bring science and world-leading researchers directly to the children. The Royal Society Partnership grant has given us the resources we need to create innovative teaching and wellbeing opportunities. We hope to create fun, lifelong memories for the children whilst also teaching them about science, research, our environment, and the people behind scientific discoveries.
Dr Catrin Rutland, Associate Professor of Anatomy and Developmental Genetics at the University of Nottingham

Students will have the chance to use new microscopes and models that have been purchased through the grant, along with workbooks, resources and activities created by the University of Nottingham. They’ll also experience activities that are dedicated to wellbeing, such as making chocolate dinosaurs, creating dinosaur fossils and puppets, and relaxing in the dinosaur garden, which will benefit many future generations of children to come.  

We are ambitious for our children and always seeking to expand their horizons and provide new, exciting opportunities for them. Our project provides children with access to higher level scientific exploration, collaborative learning, and an awareness of careers in STEM.  Perhaps most importantly, children will understand that Science is open to debate and interpretation and is not a fixed paradigm. We are delighted to embark on this project with our children, and fortunate to be able to work with inspiring academic partners from the University of Nottingham.
Sally Wright, Headteacher at Norbury C of E Primary School

Once the children have completed their research, they will create scientific posters to display at a conference, which will be attended by school staff, parents and governors, as well as scientists from the University of Nottingham. The children will present their evidence and conduct democratic debates, before voting on whether Tyrannosaurus rex was just a supersized chicken. 

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