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Dr. Scott The Paleontologist Keeps On Inspiring Young Minds With New Book

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Scott Sampson
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Scott Sampson, better known as "Dr. Scott the Paleontologist," is a household name to many, especially those with young children. He’s the host of the PBS show Dinosaur Train, president and CEO of Science World British Columbia, and an enthusiastic scientist with a passion to inspire kids to get out into nature.

Dr. Scott set out to answer the most common questions he gets from kids in his new book You Can Be a Paleontologist!, including: How do you find dinosaur bones? What do you do when you find them and how do you study dinosaurs? Why do dinosaurs look so weird? Are birds really dinosaurs?

"If we can help kids pursue their passions and get outside into nature along the way, that is one of the greatest gifts we can ever give them." -Dr. Scott Sampson

“I wrote You Can Be a Paleontologist! not to get the next generation of paleontologists out there, rather to get kids excited about science and nature. Dinosaurs are often a first foray for kids into science,” he said. “I hear from parents all the time that they really don’t have any books out there that tell them what a paleontologist does. And so, I wrote this book, so that a real paleontologist could give them a sense of what it is like to do this kind of science.”

A love for science and nature was instilled in Dr. Scott by his mother, and he looks back fondly on a childhood mostly spent outdoors.

“And then I grew up and saw the fact that kids were losing interest in nature, and they weren’t spending time outside,” he said.

The average child today spends 7 hours a day on screens and about 7 minutes a day playing outdoors, according to Dr. Scott’s previous book, How to Raise a Wild Child.

“There has been this indoor migration over the past generation, which is now threatening the health of kids, both their physical and mental health. I use dinosaurs,” said Dr. Scott, “as this vehicle to help get kids excited about science. I often emphasize the fact that they aren’t gone. All birds are dinosaurs, so they can go out and see them today.”

Dr. Scott, who has named fifteen dinosaurs so far and unearthed thousands of fossils, said Utah’s Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument offers one of the best glimpses into the world of dinosaurs on the planet. While the job of finding and digging up these fossils sounds downright give-up worthy at times, the exhilaration of the potential reward is what keeps scientists like Dr. Scott going.

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Credit Scott Sampson
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Dr. Scott Sampson has found thousands of dinosaur fossils around the world.

“There’s that moment when you’re out there and you discover something,” he said, “a fossil that no human has seen before. It’s like finding a Picasso painting that’s been buried for millions of years. You can image the emotions that come up in you—that’s what keeps you going out there in the hot sun and day after day.”

No matter what kind of science kids are interested in, Dr. Scott emphasized that there’s so much more to be discovered and many more exhilarating moments to be had.

“We’ve just begun to really delve into the world of dinosaurs. There have been more new kinds of dinosaurs discovered and named in the past 25 years than in all prior history and that does not show any signs of slowing down,” he said. “The same is really true for almost every area of science. If we can help kids pursue their passions and get outside into nature along the way, that is one of the greatest gifts we can ever give them.”