With rolled-up sleeves and dirty, scuffed boots, George Blasing stood in front of a class of preschool students and bellowed, “Does a shark live in a tree, on the land, or in the ocean?”
In unison, the kids shouted, “The ocean!”
A cast skull of the 50-foot sea monster Megalodon was one of 140 prehistoric animal pieces displayed Friday at Blasing’s Dinosaur George exhibit at Central Texas College’s Anderson Center.
Blasing, a 51-year-old paleontologist, said he and his pieces started touring Texas in June, after appearing at schools for 17 years.
Although Killeen is one of the biggest cities to host his exhibit, Blasing said his concept arose from a desire to bring a natural history museum to rural areas that don’t have them.
“We’ve had kids stand at the door and cry,” Blasing said. “Not from being scared, but from being so overwhelmed that they finally got to see the stuff.”
Blasing’s work might have inspired some children to pursue science careers, too. Of the thousands of kids Blasing has worked with, five have broken into a paleontology career, 100 have become scientists, and there are “1,000 who tell me that they remember every single thing I said,” Blasing said. “That’s when you know you’ve made an impact.”
Wide-eyed toddlers roamed the daylong exhibit with parents and teachers, getting hands-on science exposure. Blasing passed a foot-long black shark tooth among the kids.
“It’s beautiful, everything’s beautiful,” said one student, walking alongside dinosaur foot casts.
Sinai Christian Child Development Center teacher Myriam Morales said going on field trips like Dino George helps her students learn science.
“It’s more realistic to them when they can see it (in person), instead of seeing it in a book or just pictures,” Morales said. Her students would probably talk about the event the rest of the day.
When Blasing first started Dino George, he used sound effects, but soon stopped, because they scared the kids.
But Ashton Adams, 5, said he wasn’t scared of anything at the exhibit. He liked the sharks, but not the insect-sized critter fossils, because they reminded him of bugs. He seemed to have an advanced knowledge of dinosaurs. “Some live in Texas, some live in Mexico, some live in Colorado,” Ashton said.
And some lived in the Killeen area, Blasing said. Driving west on U.S. Highway 190 toward Harker Heights, the road drops into a wide valley, and 60 million years into the past.
Sea creatures dominated this area in prehistoric times, Blasing said, adding he excavated many pieces in his collection from the Copperas Cove area, which he called a “treasure trove of fossils.”
“I don’t punch a clock anymore,” Blasing said, adding he books 80-hour workweeks with the exhibit through August.