Editorial: New and ancient worlds

    Bravo to ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum for mounting a cutting-edge exhibit that lets visitors explore the prehistoric world of pterosaurs on a budget a fraction of big-city museum levels — and to a Southern Oregon Land Conservancy program that gets elementary school students out in the natural world.
    The pterosaur exhibit gives museum visitors the benefit of relatively recent research into the flying reptiles of the Mesozoic Era — from about 251 million to 66 million years ago. Also known as the age of reptiles or the age of dinosaurs, Mesozoic means “middle life.”
    Forget the pterodactyl — those existed, but scientists now say they are just one small subset of pterosaurs, which ranged widely in size.
    The new exhibit is guaranteed to pique the interest of children of all ages. And the museum staff and volunteers built it for less than $250,000. The big attraction is a computer-assisted flight simulator that lets you experience the pterosaur’s world for yourself by flexing your arms and body.
    Thanks to grants from the Ashland Parks Foundation and the Rotary Club of Ashland Lithia Springs, Walker Elementary School students immersed themselves on Friday in the natural world of today. The fourth- and fifth-graders learned some geological history — seeing fossilized clamshells dating to the tail end of the Mesozoic Era — and scooped present-day insect life from the bed of Clay Creek.
    The museum exhibit and the outdoor school open kids’ eyes to the natural world beyond their smartphone screens — something we should all do more often.

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