SPRING GROVE – When the life-size tyrannosaurus rex skull showed up in Spring Grove Elementary School’s cafeteria two weeks ago, the kids did double takes.
“It was kind of scary. It was like, ‘What’s this doing in our school?’ ” fifth-grader Halle Rosentreter said, adding she had never seen a T-Rex skull before.
The plaster cast was on loan from the Field Museum’s N.W. Harris Learning Collection, a library used mostly by educators that lends out scientific artifacts.
Paul Kaup, the father of three who got involved with District 2 through Southwest Airlines’ Adopt-A-Pilot program, heard about the library though an article in the Chicago Tribune and signed up for a membership.
“I saw the article and jumped online because I’m one of the crazy dads that would bring a T-Rex to the school,” Kaup said.
Getting the skull into the school turned out to be a much bigger challenge than he originally thought it would be, Spring Grove Elementary Principal Chris Pittman said.
An hour and four doors later, Pittman had to call a custodian to remove the center pole from the side entrance because none of the entrances were wide enough to get the skull through.
Pittman gets a new idea from Kaup about every two months, he said, and while some of them he has to scale back, others have turned into school favorites, including an annual near space balloon project.
During lunch hours Tuesday, the last day the skull spent at the elementary school, Kaup quizzed the elementary school kids on dinosaur facts, handing out prizes to students who filled out worksheets or answered his questions correctly.
He also showed them other bone casts, including an allosaurus claw and the lower jaw of a hadrosaur.
“When did dinosaurs go extinct?” Kaup asked the kids, many of them straining to raise their hands as high as possible.
Third-grader Nate Komar knew the answer (65 million years) and the follow-up of what caused their extinction. (While scientists don’t know for sure, the best guess is that an asteroid led to their extinction.)
Komar has been interested in dinosaurs since preschool, so he thought it was pretty cool to find the skull in his cafeteria and hopes that other dinosaur bones – maybe from a leg – find their way to Spring Grove.