“Are they real?” the Small One asked a little nervously when I told the kids that we would be spending the night with some dinosaurs at the ArtScience Museum. “Of course not silly!” the Firstborn retorted. “Dinosaurs are extinct. They don’t exist anymore.”
Exactly. Dinosaurs began to roam the earth 240 million years ago and became extinct 65 million years ago. Yet these reptilian creatures still manage to generate excitement in children. How is this so? Dodo birds don’t exist anymore either. Have you ever been to a dodo exhibition? Or wanted to do a sleepover with dodo fossils?
Anyway, the ArtScience Museum cleverly takes dino fascination to a whole new level by inviting kids aged six to 12 years (with one parent each child to a maximum of four children per adult) for a sleepover with these primitive animals.
This is the first time that the Museum is hosting a sleepover, and two sessions have been planned for the March holidays (16th and 21st). Tickets for the 21st are still available.
The $120 cost (per child, the accompanying parent goes free) includes a guided tour of the exhibition, dinner on the first night, breakfast the next morning, a movie screening, and three activities for kids — stop-motion animation, shadow puppet making, and A Day In The Life Of A Paleontologist demonstration with fossil casting. There’s an learning element (can’t escape that; you’re in Singapore!) in every activity.
Immediately after registration we go on a guided tour of the exhibition that takes visitors on a journey, as its title suggests, from dawn to extinction of dinosaurs.
During the tour, children get to carry large flash cards with cue words that sum up the part of the exhibition that they are visiting. The ‘Era’ card, for example, has the prehistoric periods covered in the exhibition — Precambrian, Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous — printed on its back and is used when they view the geologic time scale.
Despite kids jumping the gun to answer questions, the Small One tugging at their sleeves to repeat a just-announced prehistoric fact, the Firstborn on a verbal diarrhoea train trying to eject all his dino knowledge whether relevant or not, and children wandering out of the group now and again, the two docents leading the tour – Fatin and Dina – remain patient, responding to the little ones with the kind of cool, unruffled calm that could perhaps only be broken by a mass dinosaur stampede. We don’t get to test that theory out though, as the exhibits remain steadfast throughout the time we are there.
Stop Motion Animation: Dinosaurs Wipe Out! takes place at the Creatosaurus Space after dinner, a buffet of fried rice, chicken sausages. sandwiches, crisps, apple, juice, and a warm beverage.
The Firstborn, a natural dictator, loved this session the most. Children, using iPods, work in teams to create an animation based on one of the theories of dinosaur extinction (reasons why dinosaurs died out). After watching a demonstration video, the Firstborn volunteers to be his group’s director, and spends a glorious 15 minutes telling the others what to do. Props, dino toys and craft materials are provided. The videos are uploaded onto Youtube – all the better to blag with, yes?
The night ends with a movie screening of Night At The Museum in the Expression Gallery, whose cave-like environment lends a realistic atmosphere to the dino theme. Everyone plonks down on colourful bean bags. There are deliciously sinful chocolate cookies from the Museum’s own food kiosk, crisps, and water.
Later that night, we sleep at the foot of a battle scene between a Lessemsaurus and a Fasolasuchus. Staring up at their impressive skeletal structure, the Small One cuddles in a little more before closing his eyes.
Down pillows and knitted blankets are provided. Bring your own sleeping bags or mats. We forgot, so we triple-layered the blankets on the floor and the kids were fine with that. Do remember to bring a sweater or jackets, especially for the young ones, as it gets chilly as the night passes.
Even before the 7am wake-up call, mobile phones are chiming and riniging. Sleeping with the dinosaurs is a noisy experience, but not because of the dinos, or the piped-in nocturnal forest noises that continue throughout the night, but because the human snores are dino-sized!
We wash up in the Museum’s gorgeous washrooms, fold up the blankets, and head out to forage for food. Breakfast consists of muffins, mini croissants, apples, juice and a warm beverage (coffee, tea, Milo) but the kids are too excited to eat much.
The first activity of the morning is Shadow Puppets Alive! where the kids colour, cut out, and join dino parts to make movable puppets. Then it’s A Day In The Life Of A Paleontologist, which is the most information-based workshop.
Kids take turns to put on a safari hat, handle tools and specimens, and go hands-on to collect, record, and identify fossils, just like real paleontologists. They also make a plaster cast of a dinosaur footprint to bring home.
The sleepover ends here but don’t rush out yet! You get to roam free-and-easy through the Dawn To Extinction exhibition again, before the main doors open and the crowds descend. Do it! How often do you get an entire exhibition area to yourself?
Curated by paleontologist Dr. Patricia Vickers-Rich (who appears in the video for the A Day In The Life Of A Paleontologist workshop), the exhibition puts together a collection from four exhibitions around the world – the American Museum of Natural History, San Juan National Science Museum, SCI! Expo at Monash University, and artist Peter Trusler. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see pre-, during, and post-dinosaur life in intricate detail.
Remember to stop for a photo-op at the exhibition entrance before you leave. Parking is complimentary for each booking, valid for 24-hours upon entry so you can even have lunch at Marina Bay Sands before heading home.
The next sleepover is on 21 March 2014, from 6.30pm to 10am the following day. To book, call +65 6688 8826 or visit any Marina Bay Sands box office. More details about the sleepover can be found here.