Stepping Out

When dinosaurs roamed the land

Prehistoric creatures roar into Long Island Children's Museum

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Travel back in time to the age when dinosaurs ruled the landscape — even here on Long Island. It may be hard to believe that our beaches and parks were once a dinosaur swampland, home to woolly mammoths and iceberg lakes.

That prehistoric time awaits visitors to Long Island Children’s Museum, where families will find themselves face-to-face with some fascinating creatures in the immersive exhibit “Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice.”

The interactive bilingual traveling exhibit, created by the Minnesota Children’s Museum, transports everyone to the Cretaceous Period (145 to 65 million years ago when dinosaurs last lived on earth, through May 13.

“Dinosaurs are generally a child’s introduction to science,” says Maureen Mangan, the museum’s marketing director. “Kids are fascinated by them and every generation has a touchstone moment that keeps them interested.

The focus is on dinosaurs in North America in warm weather and cold weather environments. As visitors move through the exhibit space, they encounter unfamiliar landscapes, touchable dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes. Building on the popular fascination with dinosaurs, the exhibit features science activities to challenge all ages and opportunities to investigate clues about what dinosaurs left behind.

While families are exploring dinosaur habitats, they are encouraged to use scientific thinking skills. “They are also getting a sense of geography, climate and weather,” Mangan explains. “The exhibit ties into school curriculums and promotes interest in science.”

“It also flips learning between children and adults,” adds Mangan. “Frequently kids are more experienced in the subject of dinosaurs than their parents or grandparents. They are able to become the ‘teachers’ and share their knowledge with the adults.”

Families will explore two dynamic landscapes that enable visitors see and understand the dinosaurs’ immense scale.

In the steamy Land of Fire everyone can visit the Montana of 70 million years ago and inspect realistic sculptures of the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex and the horned Triceratops. Discover the latest scientific thinking about the colors, textures and look of these fearsome beasts. Crawl through a smoldering volcano that oozes lava on one side and is flanked by an icy river on the other. Use good balance and coordination to climb up and down a squishy bog where the spongy surface replicates a forest floor. Become part of the dinosaur ecosystem by putting on a dragonfly, bee, or baby Troodon (small, two-legged dinosaur) costume and then fly, flutter, or crawl through the exhibit.

Trek north in the Land of Ice to what is present-day Alaska to learn about cold-weather dinosaurs. Take a picture with an Edmontosaurus (a four-legged herbivore) and inspect the nest of the Troodon. Learn about the dinosaur food chain and enjoy an “eye spy” game featuring some of the animals and plants of the period, such as the conifer tree and magnolia flower. An ice cave beckons guests to climb, crawl, and slide through a frozen dinosaur habitat.

Also experience the work of paleontologists at the Field Research Station. In the Big Dig, put on goggles, grab some tools, and try to find the

remains of ancient dinosaurs, including the Tyrannosaurus rex and ferocious Velociraptor. Play a matching game at the

fossil identification table and try to figure out which fossils came from each dinosaur. Create stories about dinosaurs

at a series of play tables featuring three-dimensional landscapes from the Cretaceous period and then view maps of North America to see how these have changed over 30 million years.

Work together with friends and family to complete an oversize dinosaur puzzle and then craft a dinosaur ecosystem using a variety of techniques, including fossil rubbings, partial tracings, and free-hand drawing.

“It’s a crowd pleasing exhibit that keeps families coming back,” says Mangan.

As always, the museum’s staff has planned themed activities to enhance the overall experience. Upcoming programming includes a “Discovering Dinosaur Eggs” workshop on March 24, at 2 p.m. Participants can create a “fossilized” dino egg by mixing and molding, and practice excavation skills by breaking into the new discovery.

At “Ponder with a Paleontologist,” on April 8, 12:30-3 p.m., museum visitors can meet paleontologist Dr. Mike D’Emic, an assistant professor at Adelphi University. He’ll discuss his work and fossil identification, bringing fossils from digs in Wyoming and Montana, along with dinosaur casts to view.

‘Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice’

Where: Long Island Children’s Museum, Museum Row, Garden City.

Admission: $13 for adults and children, $12 seniors. Additional fees for theater and special programs apply. View the LICM events calendar at www.licm.org for additional information or call (516) 224-5800.