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Drawing Life Sized Dinosaurs

I have loved dinosaurs since I was 4 years old. They lead me to my interest in science, caused me to study geology in college, and lead me to my first job as a geology instructor at the Memphis Pink Palace Museum. They were incredible creatures, ranging in size from tiny to huge. How big were dinosaurs? Here is a way that you can find out.

You will need:

  • a tape measure (at least 25 feet is best)
  • several rolls of masking tape
  • a picture of the dinosaur you want to draw. You will write on the picture, so you may want to copy it on a copier.
  • a calculator
  • a book about dinosaurs

With younger students, you can get across the idea of what you are going to do by doing some dot-to-dot pictures with them. By connecting the dots to draw the picture, they will understand when you do the same thing on a much larger scale.

Select a picture of a dinosaur. I suggest that you start with one that does not have a lot of spikes or horns, so it will be easier to draw. Now we need to find the scale of the drawing. The scale tells us how much smaller the picture is than the real thing. To do that, look up the dinosaur in a book to find out how long the dinosaur was. If, for example, you chose Apatosaurus (also known as Brontosaurus), the length was 70 feet. Now measure the picture. Lets say, for example that the picture is 7 inches long. We divide the real length in feet (70) by the length of the picture (7 inches) and find out that 1 inch = 10 feet.

Now, on your picture, make dots at key points, such as the tip of the nose, the back of the head, the neck, the tip of the tail, etc. Pretend that you are making a dot-to-dot picture. Measure the distance between the dots and convert inches to feet. For example, if the neck is 2 inches long, by the scale above, the neck would be 20 feet in real life. Write the distance in feet between dots on the picture.

When you have all of the dots measured, go outside. Find a nice, flat area. It can be grass or paved. Start with the nose and have someone stand at that spot. Be sure you have enough room! Have the nose person hold the end of the tape measure and measure the distance to the next dot, maybe the top of the head. Have someone stand there to be the next dot and use the masking tape to draw a line between the two. Repeat this until you have measured in all of the dots and connected them with tape. If you look now, you have a life sized drawing of the dinosaur.

This technique will work with other things too. You might want to draw a life sized drawing of the space shuttle, the Wright brother's first airplane, or any other large thing that interests you.