Did you know that the word dinosaur means “terrible lizard”?
And how about this fact: the term dinosaur wasn’t even used in science until 1841. Until then, the bones and fossils of large, unknown creatures were, in fact, thought to be the remains of dragons!
And for the aviation buffs: were you aware that dragons get their lift from farting? And their fire-breathing? Well, that’s just burps! At least that’s what I think we learned when my daughter and I visited Here be Dragons at The Museum of Natural History, in Halifax – a magical presentation that combines science, myth and an impressive collection of live reptiles, all wrapped up in a thoroughly engaging, thoughtfully curated exhibit.
Here be Dragons offers ton of interactive activities for kids of all ages. The Dino Dig, pictured above, was a big hit with my daughter, who (spoiler alert!) discovered that the fossil was in fact, one whole large animal, rather than several little fossils.
Her favourite activity, however, was the Tattoo Station, where, using crayons, junior artists can stencil a dragon image on to paper. My daughter chose to draw her own rendition. The girl with the dragon tattoo!
Here be Dragons was created by Kentucky-based firm, Build 4 Impact, and has appeared in several American museums and zoos. It is based around three themes: Chinese dragons, medieval folklore and the modern-day sciences of palaeontology and herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians).
The live reptiles featured in the Halifax exhibit were shipped in from Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo in Toronto, and include among many others, the Crested Gecko, Dumeril Monitor, Plumed Basilisk, and the exotic Tegu lizard, a species that is widely exploited by the leather trade.
During our visit, one of the newly transported crested Geckos ate his first Halifax meal: a live cricket, much to the delight of the museum staff who, as we all know, have plenty of experience feeding resident reptiles such as Gus the tortoise.
Other interactive activities at Here be Dragons include a medieval puppet theatre, a fooseball-style catapult game and a quiet reading area, with a selection of dragon and dinosaur-related books, perfect for toddlers and young children.
Speaking of books, here’s something else we learned. In early 2004, palaeontologists discovered the skull of what they believed was a new species of dinosaur. They named it Dracorex hogwartsia, in honour of Hogwarts School of Wizardry!
You might think that juxtaposition of fantasy and fact could be confusing for a child, but it is not. After all, both myth and science are simply ways to make sense of the unknown or unexplained.
The thoughtful and clever curation of everything dragon-related at Here Be Dragons was totally enchanting, and we definitely recommend a visit. Here be Dragons is at the museum now, until April 2017.