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'Dinorama' brings home ancient history in many ways

Staff reporter

A view of some students at Petersen Elementary through one of the glass display cases shows their interest in the CEU exhibit that is now in their school.

For those that grew up in the 1950's and 60's dinosaurs were creatures that were limited to horror movies or small unfeatured toys. Even those that studied the creatures actually knew little about what they were really like. Many people just thought of them as a relic of time that was relatively unimportant except to a few egghead scientists who loved to look at old bones.

That view has steadily changed over the years, and when the book and movie Jurassic Park came out 10 years ago the whole world of the publics perception of dinosaurs changed immensely. Interest grew in old and young. Museums began to modernize displays because of that interest and soon dinosaurs and everything about them was as hot as the newest music or the latest toy craze.

That trend has continued. More importantly the research about the creatures has exploded as well, with many new theories and more proof of what their lives were like emerging almost daily.

The explosion in knowledge about these ancient times has also led to important discoveries in the numbers of kinds of dinosaurs. In the local area alone, the remains of eight new species of dinosaurs have appeared in the last few years, a piece of information that has not been overlooked by the College of Eastern Utah's Prehistoric Museum.

Kids have visited the museum for years and have enjoyed the displays and the childrens area in the museum. Now the museum is coming to them in their schools.

"What we have created is a traveling exhibit that kids can look at, feel, touch and learn from," says Pam Miller, the museums director. "We have tried to make it so kids can learn about dinosaurs right in their own schools."

The exhibit was first set up at Petersen Elementary School in Sunnyside last week and so far it has been a big hit. The students who have visited it seem to love it. But there is more to the whole thing than just dinosaurs.

"What we have done is to try and design a complete educational experience around the exhibit," says Tammi King, who designed the educational materials that go with the exhibit. "We have tried to tie the information into learning modules that encompass everything from science to math to reading."

Teachers are provided with 21 modules that allow them to draw on the exhibit experience and provides them with lesson plans to do so.

"The teachers at Petersen have been so receptive," notes King. "In fact some of the teachers have already designed new lesson plans for themselves from the kids experience."

The exhibit was not a small project. It's physical detail was planned and executed by Denise Thayne, who along with other museum staff spent almost three years designing and building it.

One of the highlights of the display are the lifelike sculptures of the various Utah species. They were created by Cliff Green, a local artist who is nationally know for his dinosaur sculptures. He has done a number of pieces for other museums and attractions including Thanksgiving Point in Lehi.

Thayne designed and put together the artwork and the Southeastern Utah Service Center printed the large art prints for the exhibit.

Money to build the exhibit came from Chevron-Texaco and the Carbon County Restaurant Tax Board. The museum had donated thousands of dollars of in-kind work on the exhibit. The price tag for the traveling show was right around $50,000.

"What is most interesting is the demand we already have for this," says Miller. "We have had requests for the exhibit from all over Utah and a couple of schools in California are also asking if we can bring it there. The Childrens Museum of Utah also wants it to come to their place."

Miller, however, points out that the exhibit was built to serve schools in Carbon and Emery counties first and that is where it will be for the time being, traveling from school to school, month to month.

The public will be able to see the exhibit this Saturday because it will be displayed in the new administration building on the CEU campus for the 65th anniversary celebration this weekend.

"But it will be back at Petersen next week," states Miller. "That's who it is for, the kids in the schools."

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