By Naeisha Rose
A life-sized T-Rex puppet invaded the New York Hall of Science last week for the science and technology center’s “Recipe for a Dinosaur” presentation.
Hundreds of kids gathered to take part in the interactive arts and science collaboration April 27 between paleontologist Jason Schein, dinosaur theme park Director Guy Gsell, and Monkey Boys co-founders and production designers Marc Petrosino and Mike Latini. Joining them, was actor and puppeteer Chris Palmieri, from Jackson Heights, who was inside the T-Rex suit.
During the event, kids sat with paper and markers drawing while listening to Schein and Gsell explain how scientists determined what dinosaurs looked like. Aftwerwards they sat in awe viewing casts of actual T-Rex fossils, while holding on to 6-inched stuffed T-rex toys.
“The thing about dinosaurs is that even though they lived so long ago, there is a lot we can learn from them,” said Gsell who manages Field Station: Dinosaurs in Leonia N.J.
Gsell brought the lessons that he teaches at the dinosaur theme park to the Hall of Science. Kids learned about the scientific method, how dinosaurs and birds are related, and how to approach problems scientifically.
Francis Velazquez, the mother of Light, 8, and Dairon, 6, was excited about what her kids were taking in from the experience.
“I feel this is good for the children and their education to learn what was before us, such as dinosaurs and things of that sort.”
Schein believes that one of the best ways to fight the problems of today, like climate change, is by exposing young children to science and hopefully, one day, at least someone in the crowd will become a budding scientist.
“We are talking to them about mechanics, engineering and art,” said Schein, executive director at the Bighorn Basion Paleontological Institute in Pennsylvania“They have to have a well-rounded approach with science, art and mechanics because that is completely integral with being a good scientist. You have got to approach all different areas.”
Once the lecture was over Palmieri burst out of a separate room and roamed the Hall of Science. Tweens and kids chased after him in the dinosaur suit trying to hug and pet the T-Rex, as toddlers latched on to their moms and dads in terror. A few of the little ones cried, and some of the parents were spooked by the lifelike sharped-tooth dinosaur, but most of the children left the event with huge smiles across their faces.
“I love it,” Palmieri said. “It is like they are in a scary movie. They are screaming, but they are having fun. It’s a roller-coaster-type scream. They have a bonding experience with the T-Rex.”
The builders of the dinosaur were Marc Petrosino and Mike Latini, production designers famous for also creating the “Saturday Night Live” Sean Spicer Podium. The dinosaur enthusiasts were excited about the kids’ reaction to the puppet.
“It is great to see the cross between fear and confusion, and enjoyment in the 2-year-olds to the adults,” Latini said. “This is a great combination between art and science.”
Gsell’s dinosaur park, just over the George Washington Bridge, has a dinosaur trail with 32 life-sized dinosaur puppets and animatronic robots that move around and interact with guests. It is open from Memorial Day to Halloween.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose