Dinosaurs and trains are a dynamic duo that fascinate kids. And the "Dinosaur Train," the PBS KIDS TV series by The Jim Henson Company for 3- to 6-year-olds now in its second season, celebrates this. If you weren't lucky enough to snag one of the 950 tickets sold for the "Dinosaur Train" expo and screening at Stony Brook's Staller Center this weekend - don't worry, organizers say the show will be coming back soon - you and your kids can always catch the fever at home.
Each of the half-hour episodes - they air at 10 a.m. Sunday to Friday on Ch. 13; noon weekdays and 8 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays on Ch. 21; and 9:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. seven days a week on the digital Kids Thirteen channel - stars the preschool-age T-Rex Buddy and includes two 11-minute animated stories with live-action segments hosted by paleontologist Scott Sampson. Viewers join Buddy and his adoptive Pteranodon family aboard a train that takes them to prehistoric jungles, swamps, volcanoes and oceans as they learn concepts in life science, natural history and paleontology. The conductor, a knowledgeable Troodon, provides dino facts on the way.
The show and its website (pbskids.org/dinosaurtrain) prompts children to think, talk and act like a scientist: Ask questions, make observations, make predictions and connections, form hypotheses, draw conclusions, and share findings. For instance, in an episode titled "Triceratops for Lunch," the Pteranodon family eats lunch with its friend Tank Triceratops and discovers that he and his family are all plant-eaters. The educational objective? By studying the teeth and jaws of dinosaurs, scientists can tell what kind of food they ate.
SEE THIS INSTEAD
If you don't have tickets to the "Dinosaur Train" show, the university has something else you can see, and for free: "Stony Bones," a 70 million-year-old, 21-foot long, 7-foot-high meat-eating theropod dinosaur and a very distant relative of Tyrannosaurus rex. This exact replica of the fossil skeleton of Majungasaurus crenatissimus is a composite of specimens collected in Madagascar by David Krause of the Department of Anatomical Sciences. The permanent, one-of-a-kind exhibit is in the administration building, which is open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Proceeds from the sold-out "Dinosaur Expo" will support the Stony Brook University Madagascar Ankizy Fund, which provides education and health care for Malagasy children. Sampson - or "Dr. Scott," as he is known, a Canadian-born dinosaur paleontologist, consultant on the "Dinosaur Train" and featured actor in the live action segments - worked on the Madagascar research project for more than 10 years and knows the poverty and conditions faced by the Malagasy children firsthand. A section of his recent book "Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life" (University of California, $29.95) is dedicated to the Madagascar Ankizy Fund.
COST: $15 per adult, $7 per child age 10 and younger; sold out, call to get on waiting list
INFO: 631-632-4466, stonybrook.edu/dinosaurtrain
Dinosaur dentist trounces tartar
The musical "Lenny Longtooth, D.D.S. (Dental Dinosaur!)" is returning Jan. 15-29 to Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson. Jeffrey Sanzel, executive artistic director, wrote the script and lyrics, and Kevin Story wrote the music. Says Sanzel, "It's such fun to do a show that incorporates two completely opposing things: dinosaurs and dental hygiene. While it's about promoting good dental health, it's also a 'Wizard of Oz'-like story." In it, a girl named Linda, who has to get braces, is transported to another time and place and helps the Longtooth Teeth Team thwart the uprising of Desiree, Princess of Tartar. Tickets are $10. Call 631-928-9100 or go to theatrethree.com.