08 December 2008

Diggin' in Dinoland

Dinoland U.S.A. offers more than just a blast to the past and some carnival elements. Dinosaurs are mystical to children, and continue to draw them in decade in and decade out with their fierce jaws, their huge sizes, and the idea that you cannot visit a local zoo to see one. For the aspiring paleontologists there is and education of what exactly is involved in paleontology all done in the finest edutainment fashion.The graduate students at the Dino Institute, in between playing rooftop games and adding “osaurus” to every word they can find, have actual tasks they must perform. Sometimes these are tasks that they, like the guests, know nothing about and so they look to their teachers for guidance. Signs like this one, detailing the how and why of plaster wrapping bones, pepper Dinoland U.S.A. Though the students have offered their own insights to the instructions, these signs are a great way to further understand the meticulous work that is carried out by paleontologists. Though even as an adult I can learn something from these information boards, they are perfect for the elementary and middle school set that are starting to firm up specific interests. Coupled with the plant life that is discussed and displayed on the Cretaceous Trail, and you have a firm foundation that will spawn digging in the backyard and library upon returning home.For smaller children the Boneyard is a great place to give them an experience they won’t soon forget and some time to run off their high energy. As a wee tike myself, I can remember going to a museum and Florida that had a large sandbox type structure filled with pebbles and seashells (both whole and crushed), that was mixed in with a few shark’s teeth and rocks with trilobite imprints. The shark’s tooth I found was kept in a prominent place on my dresser well into my teens. From that day on I was convinced I would be digging for things in the ground for the rest of my life, turns out I was actually going to take the sandbox further with me than what I found in it. The Boneyard, with its buried fossils can, and does, have the same effect on the preschool and elementary set.There are opportunities for children to learn all throughout Disney’s Animal Kingdom through tangible real world experiences. The hardest concept to teach a child is to teach them about something they cannot see and touch and experience. Dinoland U.S.A. is a model learning environment for children who want to understand where, how, and when the giant bones in front of Dinosaur where found. Through entertaining explanations and creating hands-on details the prehistoric age of the dinosaurs once again comes alive in the minds of the adolescents who take some time, and whose parents take some time, to soak in everything this land has to offer.

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