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Dinosaur Encounters

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BC: WORKS CITED Bingmann, Melissa, Grove, Tim, and Johnson, Anna. "Families and More." The Museum Educator's Manual. Lanham, Maryland: Alta Mira Press, 2009. Veverka, John A. "Using interpretive themes and objectives will make your program planning easier and more effective." John Veverka and Associates.


1: The Museum/The Program The Mission of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is "to inspire wonder, discovery, and responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds" (, 2012). Located in the center of downtown Los Angeles, the museum serves a diverse local community along with a growing national and international audience. In conjunction with its new Dinosaur Hall, the Museum offers Dinosaur Encounters, "a performing arts-based interpretive program that lets visitors get up close and personal with a realistic, life-sized juvenile T. rex." (, 2012). Depending on the interests and expertise of the performers, the content of the show changes each time, and topics include dinosaur movement, hunting, relationship to birds, comparative anatomy, and diet. The audience for this program is mainly children ages 6-8, but the performers have received accolades from adult visitors as well as numerous performing arts magazines. This photo is of an advertisement for Dinosaur Encounters featuring Hunter the T. rex. Since the inception of Dinosaur Encounters, the museum has added two other puppets, a Triceratops and a saber toothed cat.

2: On the way up to the second floor, a hanging sign guides the visitor to Dinosaur Encounters and Ice Age Encounters in the Second Floor North American Mammal Hall.

3: Outside the North American Mammal hall, a sign shows the schedule of shows for the day. The Museum offers four shows a day every Wednesday Through Sunday. During the week, the primary audience for these shows are school children on field trips. On the weekends, families with young children form the majority of the crowd.

4: Even though I arrived 15 minutes, early, the hall was already packed with young children sitting on the floor, and parents seated on provided benches. During the show, the lights are dimmed in the hall, but the dioramas remain lit so visitors can see the animals inside.

5: Michael, one of the performance artists, poses as Professor Paleo. Here, he is reading about T. rex before noticing the audience watching him.

6: "Raise your hand if you are around six or seven years old."

7: "Well, this is what you might look like if you were a T. rex!"

8: A little comedy mixed in with education.

9: Here, Professor Paleo demonstrates the T. rex's bite, explaining that T. rex had the strongest bite of any animal that ever lived. He also uses the puppet's teeth to explain how a T. rex's teeth would fall out and grow back bigger throughout its life.

10: Professor Paleo hypnotizes T. rex to allow the young professors in the audience to make observations about his posture and physical features.

11: The audience observes the proto-feathers on the juvenile T. rex. Professor Paleo discusses how scientists find fossilized skin imprints, which tell us that young T. rex may have had downy feathers like a baby bird.

12: In order to observe what T. rex might have eaten, a volunteer from the audience holds a plant in one hand. The other arm is used to represent meat. T. rex sniffs cautiously at the arm with the plant.

13: Professor Paleo freezes T. rex moments before he takes a bite out of "Professor Connor's" arm. Now we know that T. rex was a carnivore.

14: Eli, the puppeteer, poses with the T. rex puppet after the show. Participants are invited to meet the performers in the Discovery Center to get a closer look at the puppet and to see fossil replicas.

15: When not in use, the T. rex puppet resides behind glass in the Discovery Center, which is the hands-on learning room for younger audiences.

16: CONCLUSIONS When we think of museum education programs for children, we often think of "hands on" activities, because these types of programs have proven themselves to be effective in allowing children to explore and create. Although it is not a hands-on, Dinosaur Encounters allows children and their parents to learn together in an exciting way. Johnson et al. discuss in their chapter "Families and More" the successful characteristics of programs aimed at families. One of the things that Dinosaur Encounters does extremely well is provide learning experiences and entertainment for both parents and their children. As an audience member, I heard parents remarking that they did not know that juvenile T. rex had feathers, or marveling at the quality and artistry of the puppet. Children wondered whether the T. rex was real, and raised their hands with enthusiasm when the performer asked for volunteers to demonstrate T. rex's diet. In this way, the program provides "instruction for both parent and child--where each can learn something through multiple levels of learning" (Johnson et al., 76). Dinosaur Encounters, because of its subject matter and content, has an immediate hook for children. Children are often fascinated by dinosaurs, and a promise to see a life-size dinosaur up close is not one that is easily passed up. By advertising Dinosaur Encounters throughout the museum in print, as well as using the puppets in the Discovery Center as a sort of

17: advertisement, the museum ensures that it does not miss its target audience for the program. In addition, Guest Relations staff are instructed to verbally inform visitors with young children about Dinosaur Encounters and to provide them with information on its location and daily show times. Another strength of the Dinosaur Encounters show are its strong themes and objectives. The themes are simple, in the case of this show "Imagination is important for scientific observation." The theme of imagination was stressed throughout the show. The objectives were also clear. Thinking back to the "Learn-Feel-Do" model of program objectives, I think that Dinosaur Encounters includes all three. Visitors will learn interesting information about dinosaurs, they will feel excited and impressed at being up close to a realistic T. rex, and they will be encouraged to visit the Dinosaur Hall and pursue more information on their own or with their families (Veverka,).

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  • Title: Dinosaur Encounters
  • Photo essay of Dinosaur Encounters at the Natural History Museum, LA.
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  • Published: about 6 years ago