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May 05. 2013 10:12PM

Students get up close to dinosaurs at Manchester science center

MANCHESTER - What second-grader doesn't love dinosaurs, particularly when they roar and move and kids get to ham it up and put their heads into a life-size model?

"T-Rex was a meat eater," said Patrick Patterson, 8, with a mischievous grin, as he posed with his head inside the dino's toothy mouth.

He was among 65 Northwest Elementary School second graders who recently toured the Dinosaurs exhibit at the SEE Science Center. Giving a few pointers and tagging along on the tour was Joe Carelli, president, Citizens Bank, New Hampshire and Vermont, the "classroom pet, our mascot," for the day, according to Adele Maurier, SEE operations and design assistant.

"Just call me Joe," he told one youngster who wanted to know his name.

Citizens sponsors the exhibit, which features half- and full-scale robotic dinosaurs that move and roar, and its foundation is picking up the admission fee for 1,000 Manchester second-graders.

Carelli, a banker for 33 years, said he originally studied environmental sciences because he wanted to be a forest ranger.

He does not remember what derailed his original career path choice, but said his love of math and finance won out, resulting in a great banking career.

Carelli did not mention banking as he talked with the youngsters who were well-versed about the extinct creatures. Did anyone have a dinosaur for a pet, he asked? No they answered in unison, although one little boy raised his hand, nodding his head affirmatively.

"Why don't you?" Carelli asked. "They might eat you," said one second grader. Others informed him it's because they are extinct.

With a few more questions posed by Maurier, all answered correctly by the children, it was time for the tour.

Carelli said he hopes the exhibit will be the spark that leads to the children's life-long interest in science.

"Our hope always in this program is to help the kids gain appreciation for science," he said. "I'm excited to see the dinosaurs through the eyes of the school children when I join them to tour the exhibit."

Some of the dinosaurs were life size - like the pteranodon, with its 20-foot wing span, and the Albertosaurus, which most of the children and adults as well thought was a T-Rex. It's actually a cousin, a quarter size of its giant relative.

And one scene, a pack of raptors attacking a much larger Tenotosaurus, was a rather graphic depiction, one which fascinated many of the children but which upset at least one second grader who put his hands up across his face to block the view.

A nurturing scene of a Maiasaura, which means the "good mother lizard," tending her nest of about 18 eggs, a half-dozen already hatched, was the favorite of two of the children.

The exhibit runs through June 16.

pgrossmith@unionleader.com

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