It was perfect timing of the opening of Cranbrook Institute of Science’s Doom of the Dinosaurs because it just so happened my little ones had been learning about dinosaurs for a few months. We started our 2018-19 homeschooling year in the Fall and dinosaurs have been an on-going topic in our home for my three small children.
From reading dinosaur books like Dancing with the Dinosaurs by Jane Clarke to watching episodes of Dino Dana on Amazon Prime and playing LEGO Jurassic Park video game, my kids have found many different fun ways to explore the world of dinosaurs. So naturally, I was excited when our family was invited to check out Cranbrook’s new dinosaur exhibit!
CHATTING WITH JOHN ZAWISKIE, THE CURATOR OF EARTH & LIFE SCIENCES
Doom of the Dinosaurs: Are We Next? opened on Friday, February 8, 2019, at Cranbrook Institute of Science. Travis and I took our bunch to see the exhibit after a doctor’s appointment we had in Detroit.
When we arrived at Cranbrook, the kids couldn’t stop bouncing around. They were eager to get down to the traveling exhibit area. Zhen was super excited when I told her I had a dino surprise for her. She even thought we were going to see live dinosaurs walking about so I had to remind her the dinosaurs are extinct. LOL!
Before viewing the exhibit, I had the chance to sit down with John Zawiskie, the Curator of Earth and Life Sciences at Cranbrook. He oversees collections in the areas of geology, paleontology, and zoology.
Mr. Zawiskie told me the dinosaur exhibit is custom-developed and features mostly fossil casts of the original specimens. However, there is one full, complete real skeleton you will find in the exhibit!
“The theme in general,” he told me. “It’s the very last dinosaur community before the extinction event. So it’s kind of interesting in that regard. That’s one of my favorite aspects of it.”
Mr. Zawiskie said he hopes children will “take away a sense of wonder about the natural world. Even the youngest child realizes after a while, ‘How do we know this?’ So there the process of science comes into this. You’re sneaking in science education with dinosaurs.”
LEARNING ABOUT THE FIVE MASS EXTINCTIONS
Dinosaurs aren’t the only thing children will learn about at Doom of the Dinosaurs. There is a second part of the exhibit that just may spark a great interest with your young scholars.
When you walk into the traveling exhibit area, you will find to your right a display about the five large-scale mass extinctions. These mass extinctions occurred over the last 500 million years.
The exhibit definitely had the wheels turning in the kids’ head. Michala (age 16) found it to be pretty fascinating, too. I found her reading a few informational-placards about the evolution of humans and animal extincitions.
“I’ve never seen a cougar in real life,” she said to me as she read about the Eastern Cougar. “I guess I never will.”
Let that sink in for a moment. According to the placard about the Eastern Cougar, on January 22, 2018, the animals were officially declared extinct. That’s really sad when you think about it!
Of course, one may not want to see a cougar face-to-face, and there are other types of cougars that still exist. But I think it’s just the thought of knowing during your lifetime there are animals in danger of extinction. It really puts things into perspective for you.
MR. ZAWISKIE ON THE FIVE MASS EXTINCTIONS
“In the last 500 million years, there have been five huge mass extensions,” the curator explained to me, “where more than 70% of all life has gone out in geologically short periods of time. So that’s a good lesson for us. We have only been here– our species– for 300,000 years, which is nothing. But look at the impact we’ve already had on the planet.”
He went on to say because of the extinction of so many animals, “many argue we’re in the middle of the sixth mass extinction. As we take out all of these habitats all around the world, alter the planets atmosphere and climate, it’s easy to have a pessimistic view on how long humanity is going to last.”
“That’s the overall idea of the exhibit, though. It’s an enriching learning experience for children. One that will get them talking about our Earth’s history and hopefully, create a heart for preserving it.”
WHAT THE KIDS THOUGHT OF DOOM OF THE DINOSAURS
As soon as we walked in, Zhen noticed the tall dinosaur bones display to her left. Her eyes widened and she gasped, “Look, Mommy! It’s a T-Rex!”
That will definitely be the first thing you notice when you enter the exhibit. Tyrannosaurus Rex is positioned as if he’s chasing other small dinosaurs. Kids are sure to be thrilled when they see it! I was amazed at the massive size of the fossil casts.
I couldn’t help but imagine what it would have been like to live among the dinosaurs. I jokingly said to Michala, “I probably would have never gone outside because I would have been too scared to see these big creatures!”
My oldest son Elijah later said he would have learned to adapt to his environment by making homemade spears to hunt the dinosaurs and protect himself.
ZHEN USES HER IMAGINATION TO MAKE CONNECTIONS
Zhen, however, had a different idea on how she would have lived with the dinosaurs. At the age of six, my daughter has quite the imagination. She excitedly told us she would have been like Dino Dana. It’s one of her favorite educational shows.
Dino Dana is about a young girl who loves dinosaurs so much that she imagines they are walking around in her neighborhood, city, or backyard. Dana loves to study dinosaurs and shares important facts with the audience. It was fascinating to see Zhen make the connection with the dinosaur exhibit to her favorite T.V. show.
That’s the overall idea of the exhibit, though. It’s an enriching learning experience for children. One that will get them talking about our Earth’s history and hopefully, create a heart for preserving it.
5 THINGS TO KNOW IF YOU GO TO DOOM OF THE DINOSAURS
From our experience at Doom of the Dinosaurs, I have a few thoughts I’d like to share with you:
1. Keep small children with you. If you bring small children or little ones who tend to be very energetic, make sure you hold their hand while walking through the dinosaur exhibit. Or you can have your child in a stroller or wagon (we brought our wagon with us).
There are ropes that border each section, but it is very easy for curious little scholars to run underneath the rope. Trust me– my 3-year-old Zechariah ran into the T-Rex exhibit and I had to quickly scoop him out.
2. It costs an additional $6 to $8 to view Doom of the Dinosaurs.
3. The exhibit will be open until September 1, 2019.
4. Bring enrichment activities to work on at the exhibit. Although this exhibit does not feature a lot of hands-on activities, it is a great opportunity to bring along dinosaur worksheets to do a lesson while at the institute.
Here are a few dinosaur workbook ideas I recommend:
ABC DINOSAUR COLORING PAGES, $6.99 (We use this one for homeschool and love it!)
DINOSAUR KINDERGARTEN MATH, $6.95
DINOSAUR ACTIVITY FOR KIDS, $6.97
5. Definitely bring your camera! Make sure your camera has a good flash because the lighting is dim in the exhibit. We captured some fantastic photographs of the kids standing beside the dinosaur fossil casts.
Special thanks to Cranbrook Institute of Science for inviting Good Life Detroit to preview Doom of the Dinosaurs: Are We Next?!
Visit Cranbrook Institute of Science official website for more information about general admission, location directions, and more.
All photographs are courtesy of the Hamra Family for Good Life Detroit.
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