Dinosaurs from Dawn to Extinction–Exhibit review

Yesterday we went to go see the Dinosaurs:Dawn to Extinction exhibit at the ArtScience Museum.  My two are obsessed with dinosaurs (although more Elanor than Rhi)–Dinosaur Train is a hugely popular show in our house–so this seemed like something that would appeal to them.

 Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 2.10.18 AMJust outside the elevator on B1, on our way to the entrance.

I was a bit concerned going in that Rhi would be bored.  She would misbehave if she didn’t engage with the exhibit.

However, I needn’t have been worried.  This is a great exhibit that caters from the very young to the very old.  From the casual dino fan to the more serious one.  There are giant dinosaurs (skeletal and recreated as above), there are things to touch, play with, and examine.  There are many videos featuring paleontologists discussing the theme of the room–although with two little ones in tow, I didn’t get to spend any time with those.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 2.10.29 AMEllie and Claire look through the “eyes”

From the first room, where you have the chance to look at the same image through human eyes and compoud eyes, there are numerous, frequent child friendly hands-on moments throughout the exhibit.  Both girls enjoyed drawing a dinosaur.  Puzzles were solved by each of them using very different levels of help.  Skin was touched.  Magnifying glasses were peered through.

Throughout the rooms you’ll be invited to “PLEASE TOUCH” or “TRY THIS” and so forth.  In doing so, it makes the topics more interesting and engages with those more casual dinosaur fans.

In the last room, you even get to roar and hear what you’d sound like as a dinosaur!  I was pretty taken by that one!

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 2.11.12 AM

There is great variety in how the dinosaurs are presented visually.  There are skeletons.  There are statues of what it is thought they looked like when alive.  There is a metal statue of of a Brachiosaurus (?) in one room.  There are fossils–even a few real ones (the display case will note GENUINE FOSSIL or REAL FOSSIL).  There is a room where they recreated the environment for what a snapshot of the post-dino age would have looked like in a part of China with a rich fossil record.

In the room with the T-Rex skeleton, there is a smaller mechanized skeleton to demonstrate how the T-Rex would’ve moved that you can walk around and see from almost the full 360 degrees that I was fascinated by.

This variety in methods of presentation and differences in presentation visuals helps to keep the exhibit fresh, instead of becoming a stale progression of more of the same.

There is also great use of lighting and mood that you don’t get in a setting like the Natural History Museum in NYC.  The exhibit tells a story, whereas museums are trying to tell a story by presenting a theme more than a progressing narrative.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 2.11.39 AMAnkylosaurus.  Obviously.

I realize that some reasonably large percentage of kids go through a dino phase at Elanor’s age.  I know I did, too.  What shocked me though is exactly how much Dinosaur Train has stuck with her.  She was easily identifying dinos from across the room without reading the plaques with a high percentage of correct identifications. E’s comfortable using descriptions like herbivore/carnivore/omnivore and therapod accurately.  If you are anti-tv, I’d encourage you to go with her to a dino exhibit like this one– you might rethink your opposition to educational tv given that her knowledge comes from the excellent (and in part locally produced by mediacorp) Dinosaur Train.

She had trouble reading the word “severe” on a poster, but reeled off the words “Triassic” and “omnivore” without trouble.  I credit this to watching Dinosaur Train with the captions on.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 2.11.02 AM
There is an app to use in the exhibit that is hyped on the posters and by various people as you walk from the ticket booth to the entrance to the exhibit.  I did download it (heads up-it is a large app, so you may want to download it at home over wi-fi) and I tried to use it in the exhibit.  I missed the first station that you’re supposed to scan.  The dinos in the picture above are part of the second station.

When it works it’s pretty awesome.  In this stop the app reveals how the attack pictured in skeletal form would’ve looked.  How a predator with the smaller size could take down a much larger dinosaur (with speed, among other things).  After the video, there’s an option to learn more.

That said, it didn’t work more than it worked.  It was buggy.  It froze.  I had to completely reboot my phone once because the app locked and my entire phone went unresponsive.

Chasing two kids, I missed a number of stations to unlock–or they just weren’t that visible?  I don’t know, and I’m not willing to render a call.

I think the app might be more useful if you’re going through the exhibit with tween/teens or older (or on your own as an adult) as long as you’re willing to be patient with the glitches.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 2.11.28 AM

We spent around 75-90 minutes or so in the exhibit.  If you have older children and want to take the time to watch some of the videos/read more of the informational boards, I’d allow 2 hours or more, depending on your level of enthusiasm.

At the end, just before the gift shop was a project table–both girls made shadow puppets.  This was an overly optimistic project for Ellie (Claire helped a lot to get it done), and I did most of Rhiannon’s.  But Ellie was thrilled to her toes to get it.

You will, of course, be dumped into a gift shop.  I found some kid friendly items for a reasonable price–each girl got a 12 sgd larger plastic toy dino.  We also got a few other things, like a dino poster for Elanor’s room, which will set off the Disney Princess wall stickers nicely.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 2.13.24 AM

I recommend this exhibit to anyone with a dino enthusiast in their life.  If they aren’t into dinosaurs, young children may become bored, but if they like them, it is fun even for the youngest ones like Rhiannon.  Obviously you can’t expect them to get more out of it than DINOSAURS, but it’s a nice break in routine.  Dino crazy kids will love it–I’m half expecting Ellie to ask to go back.  Adults will find it really enjoyable (again if you’re a dino fan).

Highly recommended.  Solid A/A-

Dinosaurs:Dawn to Extinction will run at the ArtScience Museum through July 2014.  Go here for more info.


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