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January 13, 2008

Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin

Sunday, January 13, 2008

About 1,300 people - many of them happy, chatty children - came face to face with some terrifying prehistoric beasts Saturday during the Virginia Museum of Natural History's Dino Days.

Four-year-old Natalie Tollison of Ridgeway was so entranced by animated Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops displays that she went back to see the "terrible lizards" three times.

"She really likes those two," said her father, Michael Tollison, as Natalie inspected the display. She also was accompanied by her mother, Jane Pearson.

And 5-year-old Patrick McKenna, who had traveled from Clemmons, N.C., with his father, Bruce, to see the exhibits, was proud of the fact that he had guessed the dimensions of a smaller dinosaur statute, frozen in the act of eating its decapitated prey.

"He enjoys it," said Bruce McKenna. Patrick said his favorite exhibit was the "allosaurus," the impressive large skeleton in the museum's main hall.

While some adult visitors, including McKenna and Pearson, said they had expected just a few more exhibits at Dino Days, the younger children were enthusiastic about the exhibits and activities available.

Michael Tollison said he felt it was the type of active experience children should get more often.

Dinosaur displays at the event, including either fossils or representations, also included a T-Rex skull, Pterandons, Syntarus and Phytosaurus. Visitors also had a chance to watch through the glass of the museum's specimen room as Dr. Alton Dooley, a paleontologist and one of the museum curators, uncovered a dinosaur fossil and a whale fossil from their plaster.

Downstairs in the museum's basement, there were lots of activities for the children, including a dinosaur matching game, crafts and a game where children attempted to "walk like a T-Rex," matching the giant's stride.

But the "big hit," said Christy Deatherage, the museum educational coordinator, was the dinosaur dig pit, a sandbox where children were able to dig up wooden dinosaur "bones" and then put them together like a puzzle to form a skeleton.

"They can kind of become a paleontologist for the day," she said.
Perhaps the most unusual activity was "Who Dung It."

"That's all about poop," said Deatherage.

In that game, images of coprolites, or fossilized dung, were projected on a computer screen and the children matched them to the animal that produced them. Deatherage also had some in a bag in her pocket to demonstrate to the children what they look like.

Also part of the program during the Dino Days event was a short play about dinosaurs, "Dr. Belinda Brilliant and her Amazing Learn More Machine: Dinosaurs," which was written by museum librarian Mary Catherine Santoro and performed by Carlisle School students.

Caroline Seay, museum event manager, said the Dino Days event went well. The final count showed it had drawn more people than last year's Dino Days, which had fewer than 1,000 visitors.

"It's been very successful," she said, especially with the children.

"Kid's love dinosaurs," she said. "They love hands-on activities."?

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