By CHRIS DODGE
Special to the Messenger
FLETCHER — Three prehistoric beasts took the Fletcher Elementary School gym by storm Monday. The brightly colored larger-than-life guests were part of the Dinosaur Science Series, educational programming infused with engaging antics, that is the brainchild of paleontologist and comedian Bob Lisaius, otherwise known as Dinoman.
Dressed in a multi-pocket vest and tan hat, Lisaius, burst onto the scene in Fletcher Monday in full explorer regalia, taking students through a spirited history of dinosaurs and the earth, supported by the use of props such as an actual meteor fragment, dinosaur skull, teeth and feces, as well as a variety of fossils.
With student volunteers holding each end of the line, Lisaius used a clothesline adorned with various stuffed creatures to create a historical timeline that illustrated the history of dinosaurs and major events that impacted their existence. Working his way from one end to the other, Lisaius chronicled the life and plight of some of earth’s biggest inhabitants.
The experience culminated when three life-sized inflatable dinosaurs came to life, the largest reaching the gym ceiling and towering over students with a watchful, toothy grin.
“They looked so big and real,” second grader Harrison Frennier said of the creatures. “For a minute I had to remind myself that they were full of air and that we weren’t back in the olden days. They looked like they might start chasing us at any second and we would have to run for our lives. It was so real.”
Two of the inflatable dinosaurs were made by the prop-maker of Jimmy Buffett’s stage sets, while the third was made by Lisaius himself, who lives in Warren, Vt., and travels the country doing hundreds of shows from his Dinoman Science Series each year. The real-life paleontologist and funny man offered up a witty blend of sass and science that the students found riveting.
“Engaging students requires a whole new set of skills today,” STEM Teacher Leader Denette Locke said. “You have to infuse really engaging experiences with very targeted learning. Dinoman kept our students’ attention with humor, silliness and amazing props, but also taught them a lot of important information about history at the same time. It was a great combination of learning and fun.”
The 45-minute show transported the audience through the Mesozoic Era, which took place between 66 and 252 million years ago. It is also known as the “age of the reptiles.” Divided into the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, the Mesozoic Era is well known in modern history as the backdrop for Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park series of films in which dinosaurs break free from an amusement park and go on the hunt for humans.
“Back then life was nothing like how it is now,” sixth grader Logan King said. “Most of the creatures that lived then have either died off or changed a lot. They had to adapt a lot to survive. The dinosaurs might have some ancestors here now, but the dinosaurs themselves are all gone.”
Lisaius and his dinosaurs have been on perpetual tour for the past several years, receiving rave reviews from critics including those at the LA Times and Wall Street Journal.
“This really brought science to life for our students,” Locke said. “Textbooks, and even films, can’t replace a life-sized dinosaur coning to life right before your eyes. This is something our students won’t ever forget.”
Chris Dodge is the principal at Fletcher Elementary School.