Last Friday, we were invited to attend the opening of the Titans of the Past – Dinosaurs and Ice Age Mammals exhibition at the Science Centre Singapore. This is a massive display of real fossils and animatronic dinosaurs on loan from The Museum of the Rockies in Montana, USA, as well as animatonic ice age animals and life-sized fossil casts from Argentina’s Aurea Exhibitions.
J and Little E were really excited about visiting the Science Centre, as it is one of their favourite haunts, and I told them all about the fossils and robot dinosaurs  that they would get to see. They were so excited to receive trail and activity booklets tailored to their learning levels at the start of the exhibition! You can see them clutching the books in the photo above.
The exhibition hall is really huge, around 3000 square metres, and it is quite dark inside (although the information panels and the specimens are very well lit), so if your children don’t like the dark, do
bribe warn them in advance.
We were absolutely captivated by the fossils that we saw! The children were in awe of the size of the creatures, and jostled with each other to get a good view of them. Each exhibit was accompanied by a series of well written and illustrated panels that showed how paleontologists gather information about the habits and behaviour of extinct animals by studying their skeletons and comparing them to living animals.
What I found particularly fascinating was the work done by Dr Jack Horner (the curator of Paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies) and his research team in comparing fossil specimens and discovering that the previous classification of dinosaur species did not account for the changes that an animal would go through as part of its natural development from birth to adulthood.
The beautifully displayed array of detailed Triceratops skull casts (seen in the picture above) shows how young dinosaur skull has such a vastly different appearance from an adult that it was mistaken for a different species of dinosaur by past paleontologists.
Little E, who was feeling a little bit reserved in the dark environment, was particularly taken by the idea of a ‘baby’ Triceratops and this helped to dispel any further fears she had about meeting the robot dinosaurs. In fact, the first animatronic display we encountered was that of a mother Triceratops protecting her young.
J and Little E were so concerned for the baby Triceratops that they carried on talking to the mother and reassuring her that they would not hurt the baby! I personally felt that it was a smart move to put a less intimidating dinosaur in the front of the exhibition.
We were most impressed by the size of the dinosaur skeleton specimens and casts. One of the casts, a life-sized Argentinosaurus, was so big that it took up almost the whole room and stretched nearly to the ceiling! J was particularly interested in the infamous T-rex, and its enormous teeth, growing in overlapping rows like a shark.
The animatronic dinosaurs were very life-like and were accompanied by very loud roars. Little E was a little bit nervous in approaching them, but as soon as she remembered that they were only robots (albeit very life-like robots developed by Japanese robotics company Kokoro in consultation with Dr Jack Horner) she became very brave indeed and started roaring back at them.
There were so many fun interactive exhibits along the way, as well as a series of activity tables where the kids could do some colouring or craft work to learn about different species of dinosaurs. Bigger kids would probably enjoy watching the videos detailing the work of scientists in postulating the behaviour of extinct animals or attending one of the hands-on dinosaur forensic workshops.
J and Little E had fun participating in a mock paleontology dig site. The two of them squatted there for ages, ankle deep in fine sand, conscientiously using brushes to painstakingly uncover a half-buried fossil.
Right at the end of the exhibition was a display of animatronic ice-age mammals such as the mammoth and the sabre-toothed cat. Apparently, it is the first time that Aurea Exhibitions has brought their work to Asia!
Sadly, all these magnificent animatronic mammals were crammed into a much smaller area, which meant that general effect on visitors was much less impressive (and the cacophony of sounds meant that my kids were not keen to remain in that room for long!) However, it was still interesting to look at these extinct creatures and compare them to the animals that are still living in our world today. J and Little E were certainly very curious about how these mammals lived and what the world might have looked like during the Ice Age.
If your kids are fascinated by dinosaurs, it is definitely worth bringing them to the Science Centre for a visit! The Titans of the Past exhibition is open now until the 24th February 2014. Click here for more information.
1. Or ‘Dinosaur robots’ as Little E insists that they are called.
2. At the launch of the exhibition, we were each given tiny little LED keychain torches to carry inside the hall, which my kids absolutely loved. If you have a small torchlight or pen-torch at home, bring it along and your children can pretend that they are real explorers!
3. Who, incidentally, was also the technical advisor for the Jurassic Park movies! Now I know who to blame for that T-rex scene that gave me the twitches for a year.