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NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson Kade Gensini, 5 (from left); Nicholas Beebee, 9, and Megan Olson, 7, use magnifying glasses to identify the skin texture of a “fake” baby alligator at Illinois Valley Community College’s Dinosaur Camp this week. The camp is taught by Betsy Carlson outreach educator at the Burpee Museum in Rockford.
Its name is Deinosuchus. A so-called “super croc” that lived 80 to 70 million years ago in fresh waters of what is now North America, trolling waters for a variety of prey including other dinosaurs.
At nearly 50 feet long, weighing 5 to 10 tons and equipped with a jaw large enough and strong enough to crush a car, it’s no wonder every child in the room was paying attention. Creatures such as these are being introduced to young children who are participating in Illinois Valley Community College’s Dinosaur Daze Camp taught by Betsy Carlson, Outreach Educator for Burpee Museum in Rockford.
“I like to make paleontology accessible to them,” Carlson said. “It expands the mystery of our great world.”
Students in the camp attend a two-hour session daily for four days learning about ancient creatures such as Tyrannosaurus Rex, horned dinosaurs such as Triceratops, super crocs and learning how exactly scientists excavate the bones.
Each class begins with a presentation on the subject they will be learning about that day. Throughout the presentation are plenty of hands-on examples of fossilized bones, snake skins and other real-life examples that point back to ancient history.
Classes also feature workbooks and science experiments all designed to introduce dinosaurs and the scientific process to children.
“It’s a stepping stone for them,” Carlson said, “a place where they can hold science and attach it to their world.”
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