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Show some leg please request!


I recently acquired a rather large cast of the distal end of a femur from a
sauropod from Maryland. I wish to use the specimen as part of some lessons I
am developing for the science education center where I am employed. I want
to develop the lesson around a problem solving approach by which students
gather data from the existing portion and are able to use the data to assist
in determining what the length of the entire femur would be and from that
get a better sense of the size of animal. I have several questions and concerns.
I hope that people on this list can provide some advice and suggestions.
Is this a reasonable problem? Can one determine with some level of accuracy
the size of an entire bone from a fragmentary piece? If so, are there some
general rules and calculations that apply to specific bones and are there
any publications or software applications that provide formulas or a process
for solving this kind of a problem? Are there any pitfalls I should be aware
of when working through a problem of this fashion? One of my other objectives
is to have students try to infer more about the animal with respect to how it
would fit into its natural environment. I will have casts of other bones from
the same kind of sauropod (teeth, vertebrae, mandible, toe bone etc.) I want
to have students to examine various structural features and hypothesize about
diet, habitat, defense, behavior etc. I would as a warm-up activity conduct
a brief study of the bones of some contemorary creatures that a known or
somewhat known to the students. From this study, students would see how certain
morphological features of the skeletal material reveal diet, habitat, defense,
behavior etc. Does this seem a reasonable approach or would that much infor-
mation from a few scraps of bone be too much to expect? Any other suggestions?
You can respond to me directly or if you think this would be of interest to
other members of the list then post it directly to the list. I know that some
other science educators are on this list and this may be of some interest to
them. Regardless, I would be especially appreciative of any information and
advice. Also, does anyone know of other teachers doing anything similar to
what I am proposing. I eventually hope to have 3 sets of lesson offerings.
One set would target students in 3rd grade, the 2nd set of lessons would
target 5th grade and the 3rd set would target high school grades 10-12.  The
center I work at provides programs for students in grades K-12.
Your time, energy and consideration is sincerely appreciated. Thanking you in
Martin Tillett
Science Instructor
Howard B. Owens Science Center
9601 Greenbelt Road
Lanham, Maryland 20706
301-918-8750  fax 301-918-8752  email mtillett@umd5.umd.edu