Preschoolers Learn Paleontology with PBS Kids’ Dinosaur Train
Review of Dinosaur Train
Dinosaur Train premiered on PBS with a four episode marathon on Labor Day 2009 (September 7, 2009). This series joins Sid the Science Kid as a PBS show that teaches about science. The main educational categories are life science, natural history, and paleontology. The show is mostly made up of animated story plots (2 ~11 minutes stories per episode), but it also has short live action segments with Dr. Scott Sampson the Paleontologist giving further info on mostly the dinosaurs (once it was a bee) introduced in the story plots.
The main characters of the show are a Pteranodon family. They are not exactly dinosaurs and one of the first episodes explains this. The family also includes a true dinosaur species, as one of the siblings is a different species and was adopted as an egg. At first the adopted Buddy is of an unknown species, but in the fourth episode (“I’m a T. Rex!/Ned the Quadruped) he finally figures out that his species is Tyrannosaurus Rex. Buddy’s Pteranodon siblings are named Tiny, Shiny, and Don. The parents are just known as Mom and Dad. The other main character is Mr. Conductor, who they meet on the Dinosaur Train in most episodes.
In almost every episode the Pteranodon family goes on an adventure on the Dinosaur Train. Sometimes they go through the Time Tunnel to travel to other periods of the dinosaurs, such as Triassic and Jurassic or within their own time period, the Cretaceous. They usually time travel in the first story in an episode and the second part of the episode they usually just go to the Big Pond.
On their adventures taking the Dinosaur Train they usually meet a new species of dinosaur and learn about them. Sometimes they learn about other things, such as the episode they learn about flowers, pollen, and bees (“Flowers for Mom”). The educational aspect in the plots is apparent, but it is kept fun and does not seem so overly educational like Sid the Science Kid can be, although I do still think that is a great show, too.
The main very educational part of the show is the short segments with Doctor Scott the Paleontologist, which occurs after each story. In these segments Doctor Scott wraps ups about the dinosaur (sometimes other animal like the bee) met in the story and adds more information about the dinosaur. It is very well done to be geared towards preschoolers understanding wise, but it is also educational for parents and caregivers watching along if you are not an dinosaur expert. I really like how Doctor Scott often explains how we think the dinosaurs acted by basing it on how current animals act, such as how animals use horns.
Overall I am quite impressed with Dinosaur Train and I think it is a great addition to PBS Kids. I liked Sid the Science Kid for being an educational show that focuses on science instead of reading or just words in general like a lot of the educational shows, but Dinosaur Train is way better because the plot lines are actually interesting and not so repetitively formulaic like Sid the Science Kid. I also like that it does not go too far with the fictional license by making it seem like all dinosaur species coexisted by introducing the Time Tunnel way of them visiting dinosaurs that existed in a different time period than their own. Lastly, the animation is great, which really enhances the show.