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A rawring good time

5/19/2014

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

mkenwright@dailynews.net

From the moment he opened a dinosaur pop-up book at age 5, David Levering has nurtured a passion for learning about ancient life.

The director of education and outreach for Sternberg Museum of Natural History brings extensive knowledge of paleoecology to the institution. Levering, an Oregon native, has studied the traits of species and the habitats found in several time periods throughout history.

Levering joined the museum in August to expand its appeal.

"I came out to Hays . . . with the idea of starting summer camps, trying to include or create programs that are maybe a little bit more targeted at older students and doing things that are more interesting to adults and college students," he said.

The camps build on students' natural history knowledge. Elementary school children will explore the offerings inside and around the museum, while middle school and high school students have the opportunity to go camping around the region for a more involved experience.

The director has noticed the local small-town environment encourages a rapport between many staff members and residents. The community-wide connection to the museum is evident.

"It's really nice to have that kind of enthusiasm and awareness about paleontological resources," he said.

Levering said he believes it is key to keep people engaged in the sciences as they grow up. Age-appropriate programs can continue to educate people, and they pass on their knowledge to younger generations.

"They're parents," he said. "They have kids, they have grandkids and if these kids are really interested, it's not just the museum staff that's potentially interacting with them when these kids are talking about their fascination with natural history or any kind of science."

Movies such as "Ice Age" are useful beyond entertainment because they can inspire children to learn more about science.

"The tradeoff, sure, you're getting some scientific inaccuracies in this gigantic piece of pop culture, but you're also generating a lot of interest and awareness in the subject," he said.

Regarding inaccuracies in media, Levering said most of the dinosaurs in "Jurassic Park" actually lived during the Cretaceous time period.

Levering said his favorite things about Hays are the museum, the Center for Health Improvement and Gella's Diner & Lb. Brewing Co.