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Whitestone students revive dinosaurs in exhibit

For years New Yorkers interested in learning about dinosaurs have turned to the giant bones in the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.

But last week, a catholic school in Whitestone became a center of archeological studies.

The students of Marie Lacertosa's second-grade class at the Holy Trinity School at 14-45 143rd St. put together their own dinosaur exhibit, donating the $340 proceeds from an admission charge to charity.

"They're very good-hearted kids," said Lacertosa, a former art teacher. "They loved it."

For weeks the 28 students in the class worked to transform their room into a museum. They collaborated to construct a variety of exhibits, which included a timeline of the different periods in which dinosaurs lived, how the animals forged for food and what caused their extinction.

The students also constructed models of dinosaurs, using soda bottles and cylinders from toilet paper, as part of their project. One parent made dinosaur eggs out of Jell-O, while pretzel sticks became dinosaur bones.

Finally, on April 15, the museum opened. For two days the classroom was packed with proud relatives and curious students from higher and lower grades. The children paid 50 cents to get in, while parents eager to see their children's work were charged $1.

The money raised was given to the Kentucky-based Glenmary Sisters, a Catholic charity that provides food and medical supplies to the impoverished in Appalachia, said Principal Eleanor Menna.

"We wanted to show the kids that there is a great poverty need in the United States," Menna said. "Our school, as a lot of Catholic schools do, always give acknowledgment to the poor."

Starting in the first grade, students at Holy Trinity serve 30 hours a year of community service, Menna said.

The project and its subject matter drew rave reviews from students in the class.

"I love dinosaurs," said Taylor Georgio, 8. "When I was little, I had all of these books about them."

Georgio said the money could help people "buy houses and they won't be poor."

Erik Grabowski, 7, said he learned about the formation of fossils.

"It gets buried and sometimes it gets pushed up, and the paleontologist digs it up," he said. "I had lots off fun doing this, and I learned a lot about dinosaur fossils."

Frank Masi, 7, who worked on the project with his twin sister, Marisa, treated his grandparents to the exhibit.

"I paid for the ticket with my own tooth fairy money," he said.

Ninfa Masi, the twins' mother, was amazed by how much her children learned.

"They are like little sponges, they absorb so much," she said. "But it wasn't just a learning experience. They were also able to do something for charity."

Lacertosa said all the children in her class worked hard to make the project a success.

"It's amazing how they can start from nothing and be a little leery, and at the end they are experts on the subject," Lacertosa said. "Even the shy children got into it, because they all had something to say."

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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