"This is where dinosaurs are supposed to be"Photo by Brook Collins, Chicago Park District A skull of the mighty Carcharodontosaurus nestles among the foliage in the Children's Garden at the Garfield Park Conservatory.
Imagine a dinosaur. Chances are you've pictured a mighty beast walking through dense foliage. Now, picture the Garfield Park Conservatory.
Use your imagination to bring together the dinosaurs and the plants... and voila, you have the new "Giants: African Dinosaurs," which runs through Sept. 6 at the West Side conservatory.
The exhibit includes six life-sized fossils, including a never-before-seen flying reptile called a Pterosaur with a wing span of more than 16 feet.
"This is where dinosaurs are supposed to be," my awestruck 10-year-old son says as we walk through the exhibit with Gabrielle Lyon, an educator who is married to Paul Sereno, the paleontologist who discovered all of the fossils on display.
The couple's non-profit organization, Project Exploration, which brings science to the inner city, created the exhibit. "This is what science is really all about—imagination," Lyon says.
Viewers see the bones and imagine crocodile-like Suchomimus, 12 feet high and 36 feet long, fishing in a pond. Or the giant Jobaria, 33 feet high, 70 feet long, pounding through the forest.
In one area, a mobile made from pieces of a dinosaur skull lets visitors play paleontologist.
"The challenge is to see how the bones come together," Lyon says. She continues: "That's what paleontologists and scientists do. You have to have a picture in your head of something maybe people have never seen before."
It's been 150 years since dinosaur skeletons were displayed in a botanical setting rather than a museum, according to information from the Chicago Park District, which operates the conservatory.
The full-size specimens are combined with bones artistically placed throughout, such as shoulder blades floating like lily pads in the pond. The kid-friendly exhibit even has a 135-million-year-old Jobaria femur you can touch and a bench made from a femur replica to sit on.
The Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., Chicago, is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursdays. The exhibit, sponsored by ComEd and Boeing, is free with a suggested $3 donation. A Family Night, $25 for adults and $20 for kids, is planned Feb. 25. For information, visit www.dinogiants.org.