Science Center's 'Great Dinosaur's Game' is a blast from the past

November 27, 1992|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,Staff Writer

There will always be children; ergo there will always be dinosaurs.

The Maryland Science Center has seized upon this natural law with its "Great Dinosaur Game," an exhibition featuring six huge moving and roaring dinosaurs, which continues through Jan. 24.

As human game pieces, children make their way through the giant board game learning important dinosaur facts and information.

And tomorrow, in conjunction with the exhibit, Joan Leotta will tell thunder lizard tales geared to children between ages 3 and 7.

Ms. Leotta, a storyteller who specializes in tales about science and cultural diversity, loves dinosaurs too, even though she is 44.

"Frankly, I myself am fascinated by the creatures," she says. "They are so large and lived so long ago."

While never straying from the facts, Ms. Leotta adapts folk tales and classic children's stories to the ways of the stegosaurus, apatosaurus and other prehistoric creatures.

"I try to complement the facts," she says. "Nothing I say will be wrong. I won't give a lesson on dinosaurs; they get that in the exhibit."

By "getting kids involved with dinosaurs, it opens them up to exploring science and nature all over," she says. "It expands their imagination. . . . They feel more free . . . to make up fiction about" the dinosaurs." She adds, "Maybe dragons were really dinosaurs."

For younger children, the stories are also a gentle introduction to the gigantic dino robots, which may be a little intimidating at first, she says.

The robotic dinosaurs, owned by a consortium of six museums, return to the Science Center every 18 months. When last here in 1991, they were presented in a dark, misty realistic setting that sent many young ones scurrying for the exit.

This time, the dinosaurs have been placed in a less-threatening environment oriented to small children. The dinosaurs have also received dramatic make-overs, and now sound, look and move better than before. "You wouldn't recognize them as the same dinosaurs," says Steven Himmelrich, the Science Center's director of marketing.

The "Great Dinosaur Game" was developed by the Science Center staff after careful scrutiny of the dinosaur market. Dino books and products were read and tested in preparation for the exhibition, which is designed to resemble a brightly colored children's storybook.

The game, itself, is elementary enough for very young children to understand. Turning a "dino spinner," they make their way around the game board, encountering a stegosaurus, triceratops, pachycephalosaurus, tyrannosaurus rex, dimetrodon, apatosaurus and a nest of apatosaurus babies.

Dinosaur tales

Who: Storyteller Joan Leotta.

Where: Maryland Science Center, 601 Light St.

When: 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Admission: $5.50 for children 4 to 17; $8.50 for adults.

Call: (410) 685-5225.

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