Paleontologist shares why dinosaurs are exciting and how you can inspire your kids

Get ready for DinoMAYnia!

Steve Brusatte wasn’t one of those kids who could look at dinosaur photos and instantly identify and pronounce their multisyllabic names.

“When I was in elementary school, science was my least favorite class,” he says. “But my youngest brother, Chris, was a dinosaur enthusiast. He was obsessed! He turned his bedroom into a dinosaur museum. He watched Jurassic Park on loops. He had over 100 dinosaur books — basically his own dinosaur library!”

When Steve was a freshman in high school, Chris asked for help on his dino-themed science fair project. As Steve went through his brother’s library, he soon became hooked on the prehistoric creatures as well.

Steve’s love for paleontology began when he was a teenager. Photo courtesy of Steve Brusatte.

“By the time I finished my first year of high school, I knew I wanted to be a paleontologist,” he says.

Your Scout can get excited about dinosaurs, no matter their age, by checking out National Geographic Kids’ DinoMAYnia, a monthlong celebration of all things dinosaurs.

Brusatte was nice enough to join us for a fun game of trivia during a recent episode of #TrekonTuesday. Watch the video below, and read on for more information about this fascinating scientist.

Paleontologist extraordinaire

Brusatte did become a paleontologist. He’s on the faculty of the School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

During his 15 years of research in the field, he has discovered more than a dozen new species of dinosaurs and mammals, and has made groundbreaking studies on the evolutionary transition between dinosaurs and birds. His books have become New York Times best-sellers, and he is the science consultant for the Jurassic World film franchise.

Steve Brusatte studies dinosaur bones and mammal fossils to better understand why some animals went extinct while others outlasted environmental calamities. Photo courtesy of Shasta Marrero.

Brusatte has travelled the world searching for fossils and evidence of dinosaurs across America, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Lithuania, Brazil and Bulgaria, among others, but his favorite place to dig is Scotland. There are plenty of opportunities to discover.

In 2015, Brusatte and his friend Tom Challands were looking for bones near the seaside, but instead noticed something peculiar about the tide pools: They formed a pattern.

“Left, right, left, right. It dawned on us: These were dinosaur footprints!” he says. “And not just any dinosaur footprints, but huge ones, each one the size of a car tire! They were made by long-necked sauropods, of the same family as brontosaurus and diplodocus. This was the first time footprints of these dinosaurs were found in Scotland, and we were very proud.”

Steve Brusatte has also studied fierce prehistoric mammals. Photo courtesy of Steve Brusatte.

Are you a ‘dinomaniac’?

Brusatte also served as the expert reviewer for Dinosaur Atlas and How to Survive in the Age of Dinosaurs, both brand-new books from National Geographic Kids, which are available on the DinoMAYnia page. The page also features all kinds of things that youth can use to learn, play and discover something that might inspire them.

Steve Brusatte works at a dig. Photo courtesy of Octavio Mateus.

“National Geographic is amazing,” Brusatte says. “When people think of National Geographic, they probably think of the magazine. It’s iconic. The yellow border on the cover. The vivid photographs and adventure stories inside. Maybe people also think of the TV channel. But the National Geographic Society does so much more. Its members actively fund a lot of research, expeditions and fieldwork. They support scientists. And they publish many excellent books, especially for children.”

Nat Geo’s paleontology books show how dinosaurs and fossils are portals to our planet’s past. These discoveries show how life was and how it changed. And what makes paleontology so fun is that these discoveries can change how we look at the world.

“Our world today is changing so rapidly, and by looking to the past, we can see how life has dealt with global warming, rising sea levels and other changes throughout Earth’s history,” Brusatte says. “But beyond that, dinosaurs are simply awesome. There are no animals today that measure up to T. rex and brontosaurus in size and power. Dinosaurs are more fantastic than any dragon or sea monster or unicorn invented by humans in myths or legends … and dinosaurs were real!”

Dinosaur books, available through National Geographic Kids, are full of fun, fascinating information.

Why your child should love dinosaurs

Many small children are fascinated by dinosaurs. Over time, that interest might fade. But helping keep your child interested in our planet’s past can also help them in other areas.

“Dinosaurs are a gateway into science and nature,” Brusatte says. “They make us marvel at the natural world. They make us dream about the past. They help children learn about biology, the Earth, evolution and so many other fascinating topics.”

This book is available on the DinoMAYnia page.

Since there are millions of years to study, there are plenty of dinosaurs and past animals that children can discover. Ways you can spark that interest include taking your children to museums to see dinosaur fossils or the lectures with paleontologists. You can also get them one of Nat Geo Kids’ books or help them navigate all the cool features on the DinoMAYnia page.

“If you see a National Geographic book on the shelves, you know it is going to be good; it’s going to be accurate and educational and fun,” Brusatte says. “The National Geographic logo is a seal of quality.”

About Michael Freeman 446 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is an associate editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines.