SYNTHESIZING INFORMATION THROUGH A DINOSAUR TOY: AN INTEGRATIVE ASSIGNMENT IN A LARGE NON-MAJORS’ COURSE
The largest of these assignments is a “Dinosaur Toy Evaluation,” which is turned in and graded entirely online. Students evaluate a dinosaur model (toy) of their choice, answering the “journalistic questions” (who, what, when, where, how/why) of their toy using a variety of resources including course readings, the internet, and primary literature. Students first select a dinosaur toy and construct and upload a short presentation with a title slide and labeled photos (with a scale) in multiple anatomical views. After approval of their toy, they develop a more comprehensive analysis and, in so doing, learn some of the skills inherent in documenting and studying fossils. The final product includes the “toy selection” slides as well as a table of contents, calculation of scale, slides that show the distribution of the dinosaur in time and space, its phylogenetic position, Linnaean taxonomy, skeletal and life reconstructions, the title page of the original article naming the genus, an overall evaluation of the pros and cons of the toy, summary, and references. I do provide a “mock-up” of the assignment with a relatively uncommon model of the Triassic theropod Coelophysis as a minimalistic guide. Grades are assigned for overall creativity and execution, correct use of nomenclature, following directions, and apparent effort in addition to a simple rubric for each requirement of the assignment. The toy evaluation is scalable to different class sizes and levels, nearly impossible to plagiarize, teaches diverse analytical skills, and results in a distinctive project that can be incorporated into a portfolio.