A screencap from a paleoart lesson plan from the Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Paleoartists: Bringing Dinosaurs to Life


As I was poking around the web recently, I happened across a pretty wonderful lesson plan, Paleoartists: Bringing Dinosaurs to Life, designed by The Childrens Museum of Indianapolis, using study of paleoart as an entry into paleontology.

A screencap from a paleoart lesson plan from the Children's Museum of Indianapolis

A screencap from a paleoart lesson plan from the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, featuring Michael Skrepnick’s 2004 painting, “T. rex Attack”

Michael Skrepnick’s work is a key component of TCM’s Dinosphere exhibit, translating their lively fossil mounts into large-scale paintings. The first lesson in the plan uses his depiction of T. rex and Triceratops as a way to learn about both the paleo-artistic process and how art changes with science. “After considering how ideas about dinosaurs have changed in the last 150 years, students then compare the way that Tyrannosaurus rex is depicted in Rudolph Zallinger’s paleo artwork of the 1940s and in Michael Skrepnick’s 1998 work.” Yup, these kids are doing a bit of Vintage Dinosaur Art criticism in the classroom.

From there, the lesson teaches students that artists and scientists work together to create scientifically rigorous paleoart, that observations of extant animals are key to the process, and that the entire affair is fluid, subject to revelations from new research and fossil discoveries. It all adds up to depicting science and art in a dynamic collaboration.

Along with Skrepnick, works by Donna Braginetz, Sylvia Czerkas, Douglas Henderson, and Brian Cooley are introduced in various activities. The second lesson in the plan focuses more on the artistic process itself, as Cooley describes his process for creating the iconic alamosaur sculptures bursting from the Dinosphere’s exterior. It all wraps up with a culminating lesson in which students take what they’ve learned to create their own piece of paleoart.

Paleoartists: Bringing Dinosaurs to Life is available as a PDF from TCM’s website. I’ve written quite a bit about TCM over the years at LITC 1.0, and this reminds me that I need to share more about their most exciting exhibit, Leonardo. Look for that soon!

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