Over the weekend, we got to meet Dr. Scott, the paleontologist.

Those of you with preschoolers may know just how big a deal this is. “Dr. Scott, the Paleontologist,” is the scientist who comes on between cartoon segments on Dinosaur Train (a PBS Kids show). He talks about different kinds of dinosaurs, and other prehistoric creatures, and how we know various things about them. He always ends with “get outside, get into nature, and make your own discoveries!”

Anyway, he was in Philadelphia for some live events at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Hauling little kids anywhere is always vaguely traumatic. I couldn’t find parking, so I was circling around downtown Philly’s various small streets, eventually parking in a lot. I took a ticket with a magnetic stripe, then managed to fold it in my pocket, so it wouldn’t read afterwards in the machine or at the gate. I had to back my car out of the gate, run back to the hut to get the lot attendant, with the kids strapped in the car… ugh. But Dr. Scott! He told us all about various dinosaurs, and showed us clips from Dino Train, and then the kids got to meet him and take a picture with him afterwards. My 4-year-old found this a bit odd. How could Dr. Scott be on TV and talking to him?

But even if he found him odd, he did what he said. We came home and that afternoon, we played “finding fossils” outside for quite a while. Several rocks from our walk way turned out to look like T-Rex teeth. A stick that was bent at an odd angle became a fossil of a pteranodon wing (and shoulder-like hinge). We did, in fact, get outside, get into nature, and make our own discoveries.

I know there’s plenty to lament with TV, and how much of childhood these days is spent in front of a blue screen. But we never would have bothered to go be preschool groupies for Dr. Scott if we hadn’t seen the show. And in this case, a TV show encouraged us to go play scientists. So I’d list that as a mitigating factor in the sentencing of television for all that ails us.

(cross-posted at Gifted Exchange; photo courtesy flickr user timsackton)

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