Inside the elegant 1920s golden marble lobby at the U-M Exhibit Museum, children gather around a folding table to guess how many Brazil nuts are in a jar. A staffer restocks cold apple cider and cookies. A flushed three-year-old in a pink sweater howls; her father grits his teeth and carries her out the door. In the quiet, parents urge children to examine permanent exhibits in the lobby. “Oh, cool!” cries a boy, pointing to eight perfectly formed trilobites caught swarming for eternity in a fossil.
This is the annual Dinosaur Discovery Day at the U-M Exhibit Museum. On the second floor, fifteen kids kneel, shoulder to shoulder, around a shallow sand pit. Their hands and knees embedded in the sand, they dig furiously for fossils. “I got one!” cries a girl, beaming. Another child holds out two fossils. “You can only have one,” says another girl in a bossy tone. In a nearby diorama an endless battle rages between a tiny saber-toothed tiger and even smaller human combatants.
Two towering mastodon skeletons dominate the center of the main hall. The top of a girl’s blue dinosaur paper hat reaches the mastodons’ knees as she roams around the room. Excited volunteers offer information on the layered teeth of one fossil. Adults pick up a black eighteen-inch stegosaurus horn for a closer look.
In the back of the hall, a cheerful helper in a Michigan T-shirt instructs families how to make dinosaur paper hats. Behind the busy crafters, a brown thirty-two-foot-long edmontosaurus skeleton cast rests in a base of white material in an open case. “Look, I have a quadriceratops,” says a laughing mother. She points to her toddler’s four-pointed pastel hat.
On the third floor, two girls and a boy enact a play with “Paleo Puppets.” A T. rex puppet sings his ABCs in tune while a two-year-old girl in a jumper spins in circles. Three glassy-eyed squirrels survey the puppet show from above. The puppeteers cry, “Here, Mommy—watch this
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