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Flying dinosaur exhibit lands at Powerhouse Science Center in Durango

Visitors will learn about behavior and eating habitats of pterosaurs
A wooden pterosaur skeleton stands near the front entrance of the Powerhouse Science Center. The traveling pterosaur exhibit will be on display through Sept. 17. (Leah Veress/Durango Herald)

What’s 12 feet tall, 1,200 pounds and has a diet primarily comprised of fish and insects? A pterosaur. And until Sept. 17, guests at the Powerhouse Science Center can learn all about the flying reptile in the traveling exhibit “Pterosaurs: Ancient Rulers of the Sky.”

Sydnie Golden, the Powerhouse’s director of community engagement, said the exhibit took three days to assemble.

“It came in 20 giant carts, with a million and one boxes,” Golden said.

Once confined to the back of a semi-truck, the exhibit now fills the Powerhouse Science Center, the home of the Discovery Museum.

“Its pretty much everything you see in here,” said Golden, gesturing to the entirety of the 6,500-square-foot building.

From foam dinosaur skeleton puzzle pieces to interactive virtual reality games, the exhibit utilizes a wide variety of mediums to keep young learners interested and engaged.

The exhibit includes a mix of stationary and virtual stations that visitors can move through to learn about the diets, habitats and tendencies of pterosaurs.

One station, called the “Tree of Life,” features touch screens separated by canvas walls.

“Each iPad has a different game or learning experience for the kids,” Golden said. “The walls that don’t have iPads have different facts about the pterosaurs that help them learn.”

Another station features a virtual reality game where the kids use their bodies as controllers.

“Basically, there’s a connection up there,” said Powerhouse Deputy Director Teresa Craft while simultaneously waving her arms to demonstrate the game. “It’s just like an Xbox, you pretend you are the pterosaur, and you fly around and try to catch the bugs.”

The exhibit was created by ScienceWorks, an Oregon-based nonprofit science museum that creates interactive exhibits, including traveling displays.

At the Powerhouse, all exhibits are temporary.

“The idea behind the traveling exhibit is to really revamp our gallery,” Golden said. “They bring in new things that share facts and education to our guests that maybe they wouldn’t have access to without a traveling exhibit.”

While exhibit topics vary, Golden explained that they all have a science, technology, engineering, art and math theme.

“We’re a STEAM discovery museum,” Golden said. “We’re always looking for ways to engage kids and get them interested in science.”

In addition to education, the Powerhouse also builds relationships among employees, visitors and volunteers.

“It creates a big sense of community,” said Mark Latham, who volunteers at the museum so frequently that kids have nicknamed him Museum Mark. “You end up knowing the kids’ names, and they know you. You get to watch them grow up.”

Latham paused his interview several times to say hello to visitors and to lend a young intern his phone to call his mom. He then explained that the intern had been frequenting the museum since he was about 4 years old. Now, he volunteers his time leading summer camps for younger learners.

The Powerhouse is offering 47 camps this summer in Durango, Cortez and Pagosa Springs. Rising first to fifth graders are eligible for camps that include topics like fossil excavation, plant cultivation, coding and more.

Between its rotating exhibits, internship opportunities and summer camps, the Powerhouse works to connect youths with educational and interpersonal connections.

“It’s a place of magic. You come in and there’s dinosaurs and little ones,” Latham said. “It’s opening so many doors for them.”


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