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Jurassic Lesson Plan: Exploring Dinosaurs on Your Appleseed Expeditions Grand Canyon Adventure

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

Welcome to an extraordinary educational expedition during your Appleseed Expeditions Grand Canyon trip! We'll embark on a journey to the magnificent Grand Canyon and the captivating Tuba City, where you'll immerse yourself in the captivating history of dinosaurs. Our adventure's centerpiece is the awe-inspiring Moenkopi Dinosaur Track Park, nestled within Navajo Land. Here's a thoughtfully crafted lesson plan to enrich your experience:

Lesson: Unveiling the Origins of Dinosaur Names

Dinosaur names hold hidden treasures of meaning, often crafted from a fusion of Greek and Latin root words. These names provide insights into the characteristics, behaviors, and even the discovery history of these ancient creatures. In 1841, the term "dinosaurs" was coined by Richard Owen, the founding director of London's Natural History Museum. The word itself has a fascinating etymology, tracing its roots to the Greek words "deinos" (terrible) and "sauros" (lizard).

Dinosaur names may sound like tongue-twisters, but they offer a captivating glimpse into the world of these prehistoric reptiles. The objective of this activity is to introduce students to dinosaur names and their meanings.

Materials Required:

  • List of Greek and Latin root words and their meanings (displayed on a chalkboard or chart paper)

  • Images of various dinosaurs


  1. Start by explaining that dinosaur names are rooted in Latin and Greek languages, commonly used by scientists to name both creatures and plants. These names can describe a dinosaur's physical appearance, behavior, or the place of its discovery.

  2. Deconstruct the term "dinosaur" into its components: "dino" and "saur." Invite a student to locate the words "dino" and "saur" on the provided chart. Then, inscribe "terrible lizard" on the chalkboard, underscoring that this was the initial label for dinosaurs.

  3. Display the following dinosaur names on the chalkboard, encouraging students to decode them using the chart:

  4. Encourage students to suggest other dinosaur names they're curious about and list them on the chalkboard, using the chart as a reference.

    • Tyrannosaurus rex = tyranno + saurus + rex

    • Stegosaurus = stego + saurus

    • Triceratops = tri + cerat + ops

    • Apatosaurus = apato + saurus

Field Trip Highlight: Moenkopi Dinosaur Track Park in Tuba City

During our visit to the Moenkopi Dinosaur Track Park, situated on Navajo Land, students will have a hands-on encounter with an array of dinosaur footprints preserved in the sandstone. This immersive experience will allow students to measure the prints and even place their hands within them.

These dinosaur tracks, dating back to the early Jurassic period (approximately 200 million years ago), have been authenticated by paleontologists from Northern Arizona University. While the specific dinosaur species responsible for these footprints remains a mystery, they are classified as "trace fossils." These fossils are distinguished by the shape of the prints and the type of rock layer they are found in, which provides insights into their age.

Based on available information, it is believed that these footprints could have belonged to carnivorous dinosaurs like Eubrontes, Grallator, Coelophysis kayentakatae, or Dilophosaurus wetherilli. This excursion offers a remarkable window into the ancient past, providing students with a unique opportunity to engage with the captivating world of paleontology.

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