Written by Min Wong, Outreach Volunteer, Member of Friends of Palaeontology
Anyone who has listened to an eight year old excitedly describe how a Velociraptor walked on two hind feet and had a huge claw on each foot knows the fascination that children have with dinosaurs. Such was the experience we had on June 8th when volunteers from the Outreach Program presented “Dinosaur Day” at The Hospital for Sick Children. It was an extravaganza of all things dinosaur that appealed to both the young aficionados and the newly converted. These fantastical creatures provided a welcome escape into the prehistoric world.
The day started with “Storytime” in the library for the younger children. They enjoyed stories such as the one about the friendly Stegosaurus and even dressed him up. We sang songs with familiar tunes but silly lyrics like “Five T-Rexes jumping on the bed”. We made up a song to welcome Dr. David Evans and his Dino named Zuul.
The highlight of the day was the visit in the afternoon by Dr. David Evans, who is the ROM's James and Louise Temerty Chair, Vertebrate Palaeontology. He gave a presentation called “How to Dig up a Dinosaur”. Not only was it very informative, but it was also hugely entertaining. He helped to debunk some of the myths in popular media about how the digging is done and we learned that it is not by using little paint brushes and radar! He illustrated the power of problem solving- like how to get an 8000 pound fossil home. He brought original fossils that were impressive to look at and even more so to touch. This was the first time that a curator had done a presentation at SickKids and he was an instant hit. The visit was a testament to the dedication of Dr. Evans to his work and his desire to share his passion with others. He spoke about how his interest in dinosaurs started in early childhood and it has become his career. It was an inspiring talk.
Both Dr. Evans’ presentation and “Storytime” were live-streamed on the SickKids TV channel to allow viewing by children who were too ill to attend in person. The programs were recorded for repeat viewing. The filming in the afternoon was done in front of a live audience in Marnie’s Studio which is a state-of-the-art multimedia space. Children watching from their rooms could participate by calling in their questions to Dr. Evans. Everyone came away with some new information; no one will look at their turkey dinners and forget that birds are dinosaurs.
In the afternoon, Marnie’s Studio was transformed into “Dinosaur Studio”. The children made dioramas with clay volcanoes, lava slime and swamp slime. Slime was the hands down favourite activity with its squishy texture that mystifies adults in its appeal. Children could design their own digital tattoos to wear along with their cool Stegosaurus hats and Zuul-inspired masks. They could decorate the Velociraptor with as many colourful feathers as their imagination could handle. Activity bags were provided to children in the ICU and isolation rooms as well as to siblings who wanted to share in the fun.
The day was an acknowledgement of the special relationship that we have with the staff at SickKids. We support each other through these events because we know how meaningful they are for the children and their caregivers. They provide laughter and learning and allow children to be children again. They provide a moment’s respite for the caregivers.
Video by Nick Laferriere
If we have sparked the imagination of one child, we would have done our job. “Thanks for this wonderful event. “ one parent said. “I think [my daughter] likes dinosaurs now.” It doesn’t get much better than this.
(A special thanks for photography by Mark Bernards, Nick Laferriere, Gen Pintel, Karissa Chandrakate)