Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
By Shelley Grieshop
Preschoolers get the scoop on extinct beasts from expert
CELINA - All eyes were on dinosaur expert Matt Overman as he began pulling large bones and fossils from a big storage box.
"What do you guys know about dinosaurs?" he asked the bright-eyed preschoolers during a presentation Monday morning.
"They're big," several of the Creative Discovery Preschool students echoed in reply.
The 4-year-olds - most sitting cross-legged on the colorful floor rug - inched forward as Overman, one by one, flipped through drawings of different dinosaur species.
"Who's this guy?" he asked the fidgety crowd.
"T-Rex!" they screamed in reply.
Overman smiled assuringly. He told the children that Tyrannosaurus Rex once roamed the same land where they now live and play. To help them better understand its monstrous size, he explained it weighed about the same as seven school buses.
"Whoa!" the children responded in unison.
Overman, a 2004 Celina High School graduate, formerly worked with dinosaur guru and college professor Dr. Chuck Ciampaglio in a lab at Wright State University-Lake Campus in Celina. He recalled an expedition he joined in Mississippi to unearth the extinct reptiles.
"I loved it. I really enjoyed the work," the 26-year-old said.
Overman now serves as director of children's ministries at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Celina, which operates the local preschool. Although he towered over the children, his presence and knowledge was welcomed by the eager boys and girls who never had a loss for words.
"Do you see the spikes on the back of the Stegosaurus?" he asked, waving a picture of the dinosaur for all to see.
"I can count them," a little girl said proudly.
Overman explained the dinosaur was huge but its brain was the size of a small dog.
"I have a big dog," one of the boys declared as a series of pet stories followed.
Overman quieted the audience with the next picture of a 26-foot-long, 10-foot-high Triceratops. The reptile was a herbivore with a big appetite, he noted. It weighed six to 12 tons.
"Did he eat that one?" asked student Logan Kerns, pointing to a picture of a Brochiosaurus.
"No, the Triceratops was a herbivore. He only ate plants," Overman told him.
He briefed the students about a dig he attended out west where the remains of a 3 1/2-ton Iguanodon were found. He also spoke about his favorite species - the Parasaurolophus - a name the youngsters didn't attempt to repeat.
"He could walk on two or four legs," Overman said.
He passed around various fossils, rocks and seashells and talked about the wealth of history they hold from long ago. He also spoke about other animals that foraged the planet millions of years ago.
It soon became obvious the most fascinating piece in Overman's collection was a rib bone harvested in pieces from a field in South Carolina. Overman admitted he's still not sure what type of animal left the yard-long rib behind.
The students didn't seem to mind the lack of information as they eyed the sword-like bone.
"It's bigger than me," student Landon Jenkins said, as his classmates shook their heads in agreement.
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