At a time when women were expected to stay at home, several women were making scientific breakthroughs that gained them the respect and admiration of their colleagues. Mary Anning's skill at finding and collecting fossils helped develop the new subject of palaeontology. Mary Buckland's drawings helped spread this knowledge and led us to a new understanding of where we came from.

See the students' section for the instructions for the activity and explanations.

You might like to use this worksheet.

For lots more information on the size, speed etc of other dinosaurs, see the Natural History Museum's Dino Directory

Curriculum Links 


Working Scientifically


Lower key stage 2 Year 3


Number - addition and subtraction


Number - multiplication and division




Scottish Curriculum


SCN 2-01a 

Planet Earth - Biodiversity and interdependence


MNU 2-03a

Number, money and measure - Number and number processes


MNU 2-10b

Number, money and measure - Time


MNU 2-11b

Number, money and measure - Measurement


MNU 2-20a

Information handling - Data and analysis

Discussing the variety of ways and range of media used to present data. Interpreting and drawing conclusions from the information displayed, recognising that the presentation may be misleading


MNU 2-20b

Information handling - Data and analysis.

Carrying out investigations and surveys, devising and using a variety of methods to gather information and working with others to collate, organise and communicate the results in an appropriate way.



TCH 1-13a / TCH 2-13a

Craft, design, engineering and graphics contexts for developing technological skills and knowledge



Dinosaurs weren't discovered in the 19th century.  Fossils and parts of dinosaurs would have been found for thousands of years before that, and this may be where the myth of dragons came from.  But no-one realised just what they were looking at.  For instance, when the bottom of a dinosaurs' thigh bone was found in 1676, people assumed it was the bone of a giant!

megalosaurus_300That was what people thought until George Cuvier started to put all the evidence together at the beginning of the 19th century.  By comparing living animals with fossils, he realised he was looking at different type of lizards.  William Buckland asked Cuvier to help identify some bones found in a quarry, and they concluded it was a giant lizard-like creature!  This became the first dinosaur to be properly described: it was called a megalosaurus ('giant lizard').

In the 1840s, enough fossils had been discovered that the group of animals they belonged to were renamed dinosaurs ('terrible lizards').  Victorians must have been utterly astounded to learn that animals of this size wandered around on the Earth.

We are no longer surprised by the fact that dinosaurs existed, but their size is still amazing.


How fast?

There are more than just fossil bones and shells to be found.  'Trace fossils' give us an idea of how dinosaurs lived.  Trace fossils are not parts of the dinosaurs themselves, but could be fossilised faeces (known as coprolites), nests, or even footprints.

You will need...

A long playground
A measuring tape
Some chalk
Some paper and a pencil
A stopwatch

Use this worksheet to fill in your answers.

What to do...

1.  Mark out a length of the playground, maybe 50m, or less if you don't have the space.  Make a note of the distance, and mark start point and the end point very clearly.

2.  Divide into groups of four.  One person in each group will be the person moving (the 'Mover'), one person will measure the time (the 'Timer'), one person will stand at the start point (the 'Starter'), and the other person will wait at the end point (the 'Finisher').

3.  When everyone is in position and ready, with the Mover at the start point and the Timer standing to the side able to see everyone, the Starter and the Finisher should each raise one of their hands.  The Starter then drops their hand.  When this happens, the Mover must begin walking towards the end point, and the Timer must start the stopwatch.

4.  When the Mover has reached the end point, the Finisher drops their hand, and the Timer then knows to stop the stopwatch.  Make a note of the time it took for the Mover to go from the start point to the end point.

5.  Repeat this twice more so you have three times.

6.  Then do it again, but this time with the Mover running, not walking.

7.  You can measure different people in your group being the Mover, before doing some calculations.
8.  Fill in a table a bit like this...


When walking


When running

Distance (m)



Time taken (s)











Speed (m/s)




9.  Find the average of the times when walking and when running.   Do this by adding your times up, and dividing by the number of measurements you took (which should be three).

Average time = (time1 + time2 + time3) ÷ 3

10.  Now work out the speed the person was moving at in each case.  This will be

Speed = distance ÷ time

(Make sure you have measured the distance in metres and the time in seconds!)


What can you tell from this?

Although palaeontologists can only rarely match a fossil track with a specific type of dinosaur, they can tell some other useful things from it.  For instance, they know that the hip height of dinosaurs using two legs is usually four times the foot length.  In the 1970s, a scientist found a way of working out the speed an animal was running by measuring its hip height and stride length - the distance between footsteps - and this can be used on fossil trails to find out how fast the dinosaur was moving when it made the tracks!

Now you know your speed, you can compare your speed to that of different dinosaurs.  Have a look at this information about some of the more famous  dinosaurs, it gives their length, height and how fast these dinosaurs could move.  You can also see that they didn't all live at the same time!





Height 5.6m

Length 12m

Walked on 2 legs

Speed 5.5 m/s

Lived 65m years ago

Height 8m

Length 26m

Walked on four legs

Speed 1.4 m/s

Lived 150m years ago






Height 3m

Length 9m

Walked on 4 legs

Speed 1 m/s

Lived 65m years ago

Height 5m


Walked on 2 legs

Speed 6.6 m/s

Lived 130m years ago






Height 0.5m

Length 2m

Walked on 2 legs

Speed 11m/s

Lived 75m years ago

Height 4m

Length 9m

Walked on 4 legs

Speed 2m/s

Lived 150 m years ago

Thank you to the Natural History Museum's Dino Directory for this information - you can find out more about dinosaurs here.


Bigger or smaller?

11.  Using your measuring tape - or metre rules - and chalk, draw out a dinosaur on the playground.  Start by marking out its length and then its height.  Fill in between however you like, but you can use the pictures above to help.

12.  If the ground is dry and relatively clean, lie down next to the dinosaur - perhaps next to its mouth - and get someone to draw around you. 

13.  Now compare how much larger or smaller the dinosaur is compared to you.  Also compare your speed with its speed.  Could you run away from it?