The Jurassic Coast’s Travelling Palaeontologist

Kieran Satchell (shown right) is a recent graduate in animal behavioural biology from the University of Plymouth, near to his home in Ivybridge, Devon. In this blog, Kieran tells us of his forays in to the world of palaeontology-themed science communication with his local Scout groups.

As a Jurassic Coast Ambassador, I have recently had the unique opportunity to travel to Scout groups on behalf of the Jurassic Coast Trust, giving educational and engaging talks on dinosaurs and palaeontology. I get a great deal of my inspiration from renowned travelling palaeontologist Dean Lomax, as he helped me realize that I thoroughly enjoy outreach and teaching people about palaeontology!

All ages are captivated by dinosaurs, they stimulate the imagination, especially that of children. However, there are still many misconceptions about dinosaurs, especially what is and isn’t a dinosaur. Thankfully my background in science communication from university means I have the essential skills of translating complicated science into a more understandable form for the audience intended. Therefore, my sessions aim to be scientifically accurate and treat the participants in such a way that they feel as though they’re getting a glimpse into what it’s like to learn about real palaeontology.

I bring a vast array of prehistoric treasures for the participants to learn about and physically hold. This includes Jurassic Coast fossils, bone fragments from sauropods, Stegosaurus and even a Mosasaurus vertebra! However the one that steals the show is certainly the life-size Baryonx skull replica, (shown below) which was generously donated by artist John Mac of Prehistoric Skulls and Replicas.

My sessions comprise of a talk and engaging activities where the participants are given the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned through the activities provided. Not only are they aimed to be fun, but also to reinforce what they learn, rather than just passively listening to me talk.

I have had an absolute blast with the first four sessions with the Beaver and Cub scouts of Ivybridge (near Plymouth), who have left generous feedback on my official Facebook page! All the participants demonstrated an understanding of what they learnt, which gave me a great feeling of happiness and accomplishment.

If there is one thing I have learnt so far it is to not underestimate what children are capable of learning. I was blown away by the knowledge of all the participants, especially one lad who asked me about the dinosaur air sac respiratory system…he was 8 years old!

I thoroughly look forward to giving more of my talks in the near future. If you feel like this could be something your local school or group would be interested in then please get in contact! You can get in touch via my Facebook page or via the Jurassic Coast Trust.

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