Paleontology is defined as “the science of prehistoric life – of the fauna and flora of the geologic past” (Schindewolf 1993, p. 1), thus it is a complex, hybrid domain that combines methods of analysis from a wide range of disciplines, from the hard sciences (ex., biology, zoology, geology, chemistry, etcetera) to the arts, and even computer science, to create realistic reconstructions of the aspect and living environment of dinosaurs, which are at the core of the discipline. Paleontology is also a discipline that is extremely popular among the general public, since “dinosaurs embody the drastic changes that life on Earth has undergone. Chasing after dinosaurs is really a quest to fill in part of our own backstory […]” (Switek 2014). Such popularity creates specific expectations in the public, who wants to receive reliable as well as enjoyable representations of their favorite prehistoric creatures. Children in particular are enthusiastic about dinosaurs as it is demonstrated by merchandise of all sorts, dedicated exhibitions, narrative and syllabus books, movies, websites, and TV shows. In these cases, dinosaurs are often anthropomorphized so that children can follow the stories and easily learn about scientific facts. The characterization of dinosaurs is achieved through the collaboration of creative experts and of the actual paleontologists who dig out the fossils, reconstruct and study scientifically the aspect and the lives of these extinct animals, and who work as consultants for the edutainment industry. A preliminary study (Cesiri 2018) analyzed how specialist knowledge regarding dinosaurs is disseminated to pre-school children. To do so, the animated series Dinosaur Train was chosen since it contains animated episodes and live action segments in which a real paleontologist gives scientific facts about the dinosaurs seen in each episode. A group of sample episodes was analyzed verbally and visually: the verbal features were examined to identify the strategies of knowledge dissemination (KD) present in the series, while visual patterns were investigated through a multimodal analysis (Kress & van Leeuwen 2006; Baldry & Thibault 2006). This work demonstrated that KD is achieved in the series thanks to the combination of traditional popularizing strategies (cf. Gotti 2013) and to the presence of a real expert with great communication skills. Therefore, the popularity of Dinosaur Train is due to the structure of the episodes, composed of several phases, which make the series dynamic, thus suitable to young children’s attention span, as well as to an accessible language that makes the stories interesting, also thanks to the representation of everyday situations lived by the dinosaurs that are already familiar to the viewers. The present study investigates the same episodes, using the same methods of analysis for the verbal and visual characteristics, but it considers the way(s) in which the series presents dinosaurs that are already well-known (Stegosaurus, Velociraptor, and Triceratops) and those that are more unfamiliar (Deinonychus, Ornithomimus, and Spinosaurus). The aim is to conduct a finer-grained investigation of the popularization strategies adopted in the episodes, comparing them to formal teaching techniques in order to frame the series within a theoretical-methodological background, which the previous study proposed as one of the reasons for the international popularity of Dinosaur Train.

Knowledge Dissemination in the "Dinosaur Train" animated series: how to popularise Palaeontology for pre-school children

Cesiri, Daniela
2020

Abstract

Paleontology is defined as “the science of prehistoric life – of the fauna and flora of the geologic past” (Schindewolf 1993, p. 1), thus it is a complex, hybrid domain that combines methods of analysis from a wide range of disciplines, from the hard sciences (ex., biology, zoology, geology, chemistry, etcetera) to the arts, and even computer science, to create realistic reconstructions of the aspect and living environment of dinosaurs, which are at the core of the discipline. Paleontology is also a discipline that is extremely popular among the general public, since “dinosaurs embody the drastic changes that life on Earth has undergone. Chasing after dinosaurs is really a quest to fill in part of our own backstory […]” (Switek 2014). Such popularity creates specific expectations in the public, who wants to receive reliable as well as enjoyable representations of their favorite prehistoric creatures. Children in particular are enthusiastic about dinosaurs as it is demonstrated by merchandise of all sorts, dedicated exhibitions, narrative and syllabus books, movies, websites, and TV shows. In these cases, dinosaurs are often anthropomorphized so that children can follow the stories and easily learn about scientific facts. The characterization of dinosaurs is achieved through the collaboration of creative experts and of the actual paleontologists who dig out the fossils, reconstruct and study scientifically the aspect and the lives of these extinct animals, and who work as consultants for the edutainment industry. A preliminary study (Cesiri 2018) analyzed how specialist knowledge regarding dinosaurs is disseminated to pre-school children. To do so, the animated series Dinosaur Train was chosen since it contains animated episodes and live action segments in which a real paleontologist gives scientific facts about the dinosaurs seen in each episode. A group of sample episodes was analyzed verbally and visually: the verbal features were examined to identify the strategies of knowledge dissemination (KD) present in the series, while visual patterns were investigated through a multimodal analysis (Kress & van Leeuwen 2006; Baldry & Thibault 2006). This work demonstrated that KD is achieved in the series thanks to the combination of traditional popularizing strategies (cf. Gotti 2013) and to the presence of a real expert with great communication skills. Therefore, the popularity of Dinosaur Train is due to the structure of the episodes, composed of several phases, which make the series dynamic, thus suitable to young children’s attention span, as well as to an accessible language that makes the stories interesting, also thanks to the representation of everyday situations lived by the dinosaurs that are already familiar to the viewers. The present study investigates the same episodes, using the same methods of analysis for the verbal and visual characteristics, but it considers the way(s) in which the series presents dinosaurs that are already well-known (Stegosaurus, Velociraptor, and Triceratops) and those that are more unfamiliar (Deinonychus, Ornithomimus, and Spinosaurus). The aim is to conduct a finer-grained investigation of the popularization strategies adopted in the episodes, comparing them to formal teaching techniques in order to frame the series within a theoretical-methodological background, which the previous study proposed as one of the reasons for the international popularity of Dinosaur Train.
File in questo prodotto:
File Dimensione Formato  
Cesiri_KD_Palaeontology_fulltext.pdf

accesso aperto

Descrizione: KNOWLEDGE DISSEMINATION IN THE DINOSAUR TRAIN ANIMATED SERIES How to popularise palaeontology for pre-school children - Cesiri (2020) Full Text
Tipologia: Documento in Post-print
Licenza: Accesso gratuito (solo visione)
Dimensione 2.27 MB
Formato Adobe PDF
2.27 MB Adobe PDF Visualizza/Apri

I documenti in ARCA sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10278/3723307
Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus ND
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? ND
social impact