Neighborhood Nature

Our Family's Nature Blog

Wading Pools in Winter and a New Theory of Dinosaur Extinction February 25, 2009

With today’s temperature in the 50s, I urged Aaron and his friend Matt to explore the backyard instead of the icy expanses of Club Penguin. Eventually they agreed, leaving penguins but not ice behind.

Within minutes they called me to the backyard to record a “discovery” they made. I took some photos and wrote a story to go along with them. (The story was inspired by dinosaur books for kids, which I’ve been reading in preparation for a writing project.)

This only happened because we leave out plastic pools filled with water all winter long. That’s one way we make our neighborhood a better place for outdoor play, a place with No Child Left Inside.


Aaron and Matt found a dinosaur disaster in our backyard! An imaginary world of dinosaurs and ice was being destroyed.

What had done this terrible thing to Ethan’s old collection of giant plastic dinosaurs? (Ethan is Aaron’s older brother — he’s loved dinosaurs since he was a little kid.)

Can you help us solve this mystery?

Can you help us solve this mystery?

Matt carefully studied the ice layers searching for clues:

The ice, unfortuantely, held no useful clues to the origin of the disaster.

The ice, unfortunately, held no useful clues to the origin of this disaster.

The team decided to excavate in search of answers. After much digging and clearing of ice, Matt reached into the water with his bare hands. He pulled out a giant rock!

Aaron pulled out a large rock, the cause of the disaster.

Matt pulled out a giant rock, the cause of the disaster.

It was obvious that a flying rock had shattered this icy world. But where did the rock come from? From outer space? From a volcano? Gradually, the true cause of this disaster became apparent, as the rock struck once again:

The evidence was clear -- there were multiple impacts...

The rock struck again -- how did that happen?

There were multiple impacts, in multiple places.

The rock then smashed into another pool.

Aaron and Matt imagined the rock had come from space — that was their Theory of Dinosaur Extinction. Should I believe them?

Do you have a better theory? Who will Ethan agree with?


Thanks to Aaron, who let me tell the story my way, instead of the way it really happened.

With my kids, throwing rocks and smashing ice happen so predictably that they seem almost instinctive. The boys adding characters and plot to the adventure also seemed quite natural. I’ll let evolutionary psychologists explain how these behaviors contributed to our ancestors’ survival on the plains of Africa.

Here’s something that occurred to me — by destroying the ice, the boys found out about the physics of ice, water, and flying rocks. They also learned biology — the smell of dead leaves festering on the bottom of the pools. Smashing things may be the starting point for certain kinds of science, although building things and understanding wholes no doubt have different roots.

And the gender thing: Parents of boys may see more of this than parents of girls, and grown-up boys may better appreciate these images. But if Aaron and Matt’s friend Hannah had been here, she would have been in the thick of it. That’s one reason she’s their friend, and I’m glad they’ve made room for her.


2 Responses to “Wading Pools in Winter and a New Theory of Dinosaur Extinction”

  1. Charlotte Gyllenhaal Says:

    Eric, this is a really great blog!! Wonderful pictures and stories. Not that I am a disinterested party, but this is a neat resource for parents/kids.

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