Children had the chance to meet and learn about dinosaurs during Dinosaur Dig on July 19 at the Hamburg Municipal Center.
Presented by the Hamburg Public Library as part of the summer reading program, ‘Dig Into Reading,’ Dinosaur Dig featured field paleontologists Mike and Roberta Straka who work in South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming with their team.
The program began with Mike’s introduction and a reptile puppet named Snappy who helped teach the young audience the difference between reptiles and dinosaurs. Mike then explained how a fossil was made with a demonstration.
A large part of the program was asking for volunteers to help out which made learning fun for the children. After revealing a triceratops skull, named Mr. Nixon, volunteers participated in the ‘Dinosaur Game Show’ during which they were asked questions on what they had just learned.
Following the game show was a guess that fossil game during which the audience would raise their hands before taking a guess. Even when the guess was not correct, Mike and Roberta were encouraging the children and helping them figure out the correct answer.
“We dug up these fossils,” said Roberta during the game which featured a triceratops brain fossil that is one of five discovered. She also shared the very first fossil she found on her first dig during the game.
The other large fossil featured was that of an albertosaurus skull named Hank which can be considered a cousin to the tyrannosaurus rex. Mike pointed out what was what on the skulls and then talked about finding dinosaur eggs after playing a magic trick on a young volunteer.
He explained that finding unbroken egg fossils is very rare and very special because it is the only chance that scientists have to see a complete dinosaur. Even finding enough fossils to be able to have an almost complete dinosaur skeleton can be difficult.
“In 2003, Roberta and I were lucky enough to discover our third tyrannosaurus rex,” Mike told the audience.
The final game of the afternoon was the mystery fossil game that required an adult volunteer. Inside of the mystery box was a fossil that Mike gave hints on to be guessed by the volunteer. The fossil was a coprolite or fossilized solid waste left behind by dinosaurs. After a few laughs from the audience, Mike explained that coprolites allow scientists to see what the animals ate. When the program was over the children crowded around Roberta for a chance to touch and see the coprolite.
Set up around the room were pictures from dig sites that the two were on and step by step pictures of building a tyrannosaurus rex.
“Mike and I were very fortunate to build a t-rex,” said Roberta.
Their team also found a triceratops that was 90% complete as it was just missing the head.
“We want to thank the library for having us here today,” said Roberta before the end of the presentation after which the children were able to look at the pictures set up around the room.
“I challenge you to pick up a book,” said Mike at the end of the program. “I’m always reading about this amazing subject. May your days be filled with discovery.”