Dinosaurs and Cavemen is a Success!

Greetings, I wanted to take this space to report on a fairly successful event were were able to pull of at Rock Bridge High School. As described previously, members of the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences and the Department of Anthropology (the umbrella term we like is Integrative Anatomy) got together to host a K-12 and beyond outreach event alongside Columbia Public Schools Planetarium. Before I get started I wanted to thank everyone that put so much time and effort into the production and then execution of the event:

Libby Cowgill, Kevin Middleton, Scott Maddux, Dave Dufeau, Carol Ward, Alex Woods, Elizabeth Moffett, Sarah Swartz, Ian George, Henry Tsai, Amy Reynolds Warren, Chet Savage, Rachel Munds, Kaleb Sellers, Elizabeth Lo Presti, Ally McEntire, Ashley Hammond, Rob’yn Johnston, Zack Winkler, and finally the Director of the Planetarium Melanie Knocke.

We had 400 people come see 5, 40 minute long planetarium shows (Earth’s Wild Ride) and the Planetarium collected a little less than $500 in donations. Before and after each show, guests were given the opportunity to take part in a number of activities we developed. The movie touched on numerous parts of Earth’s tumultuous history including the Late Cretaceous Extinction event and the Late Pleistocene glaciation of Europe, hence “Dinosaurs & Cavemen”. The Missourian newspaper had a good write-up with photos. 

We front-loaded the effort on this to develop a number of activities that we can easily employ during future outreach events. As several of the faculty are always trying to figure out how to incorporate their research into broader impacts, it is events like this that not only help us get our chops up, but help expose the community to what is actually going on at Mizzou. Most people had no idea we have faculty that study Neandertals, dinosaurs, crocodiles, or other animals. Since many of the activities and tables can be transported easily (I basically emptied my office for some of the tables) I started to think about how effective a Mobile Museum would be in the this part of the country…you know…get a sweet RV filled with people and gear and go tour (like this one) some of more rural and urban schools around the state. Maybe during retirement, we can stop by Canyonlands.

The Activities:

Walk Like a Dinosaur: We cut out and placed numerous anatomically-correct stenciled tracks of Tyrannosaurus, Dromaeosaurus, Titanosaur and Australopithicus (i.e., Lucy) to parallel a kraft-paper runway. On the runway, kids could strap little theropod feet onto their shoes, dunk them in some water, and then leave prints along the trackway. Kevin devised a fairly ingenious strap-on dino sandal made from velcro straps, plywood, and sponges for this. This was a huge hit and I was even able to wear the relatively tiny sponge feet, don Henry’s mache Velociraptor mask and scare the crap out of a 4yr old. Thanks to Dana Ehret for providing the inspiration for this and Ally for supervising to make sure everything went well.

Little Lascaux: Kraft paper was hung on the wall. Stencils and examples of various Pleistocene animals that were depicted in the original cave were provided by Amy and Chet. Kids and parents and whomever was then enabled to create this massive mural on the wall. It included fire-breathing animals, rainbows, aurochs and potentially the earliest cave drawing of a hand turkey. We filled 2, 12ft murals with images that still sit rolled up in my office.

I Dig Dinosaurs: The venerable brush sand off a skeleton. Henry, Elizabeth and Ian sculpted a pretty sweet life-sized velociraptor skeleton out of ceramic clay placed it in 4 separate trays and covered it with vermiculite. We provided a poster of Velociraptor thanks to Scott Hartman as well as a copy of the Sue the T. rex quarry I still have from my younger days. This was a huge hit.

Know Your Knapping:  Alex Woods is a master knapper and held demonstrations all afternoon using a giant tool box full of stones, points, caribou antler, flint nodules, and atlatl. He always had a gaggle of kids around him as he pressure flaked, processed leather, and demonstrated how to take down a mammoth.

The Tables:

Everything Tyrannosaur: Casts, posters and help interpreting a random assortment of  tyrannosaur casts I have.

What is a Fossil?: trace fossils, molds and casts.

Cretaceous Fauna: We had some material from North America but mostly dinosaur casts I have from Gaston Design. So, this was a bit too weighted towards Asian dinosaurs. Next time we do this we’ll likely focus more on Missouri fauna and Geology, particularly if a recently submitted State grant funds us to revitalize the Missouri Chronister Dinosaur Site.

We Survived the Extinction: Basically a who’s who of vertebrate comparative material from the lab: alligators, turtles, birds, mammals, animals in jars, you name it. This was a very popular table led by Dave Dufeau and Kaleb Sellers.

Neantertal’s vs Modern Humans: Anthro (Elizabeth, Rachel, Zack) had a nice couple of tables that had posters taped down onto the tables featuring biogeography, major anatomical features and an assortment of casts and artifacts illustrating the differences between the two arguable sympatric, hybridizing recent hominids.

Digital Paleo: Finally, we had a table that had a Clear & Stained alligator on a light box the got lots of attention. Next to it were two laptops. One had a loop of the Edmontosaurus chewing movie you can find at Palaeontologia Electronica and the 2nd had a draft our our 3D Alligator Jaw Muscle pdf that is in the pipeline at PLoS. It was great to see 8 year olds be able to easily manipulate the file to check out parts of the internal anatomy of an alligator.

Below I will spam pictures from Scott Maddux and myself:

 

 

About Casey

I am an Associate Professor of Anatomy at University of Missouri-Columbia. I teach Anatomy for the Medical School. I conduct research on the evolutionary morphology of vertebrates, particularly the structure, function, and evolution of the feeding apparatus. Much of this involves studying the biology of bone, cartilage and muscle. of dinosaurs and fossil crocs. I have a great job.
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