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On their way to or from the dinosaurs, snakes and planetarium, schoolchildren and adult companions are making an increasing number of stops at the Thesaurus Shoppe at the Natural Science Center of Greensboro.

Throughout the museum and zoo at the center, children can view some wonders of the world, but the only thing they'll be able to take home with them is the memories. When they stop at the Thesaurus Shoppe, a fun and educational science lesson can be packaged for home use.The shop is full of hands-on, educational toys and supplies. It's easy to tell what's on the school curriculum by gauging the purchases, shop director Hannelore van der Lippe said.

``Right now, we're getting a lot of youngsters coming in to get rocks for their school projects,' she said. ``And it's time now for the science projects so a lot are buying things for that.'

The expanded shop opened in December as part of a $3 million expansion project the center undertook after city voters approved a bond issue to pay for it.

The center is at 4301 Lawndale Ave. in Greensboro.

The shop is easy to spot at the new entrance of the museum, next to the attention-gathering Foucault Pendulum. The pendulum is 47 feet long and has a bog that weighs 240 pounds. The pendulum is used to prove the Earth spins on its axis.

To get to the zoo or any of the museum's exhibits, one must pass the Thesaurus Shoppe.

Like many things at the museum, the shop is designed with children in mind. There's little within reach of 2-year-olds that's breakable, and the real precious stuff such as dinosaur footprints or amber necklaces are locked behind glass displays.

The dinosaur footprints are about the most expensive thing in the shop, running from $300 to $600. When the shop opened, it also had an assortment of dinosaur droppings, certified to have come out of a real ancient creature. However, the droppings were sold fast and van der Lippe doesn't know when they will be restocked.

``They went fast at $10 a pile,' said Mary Jeanne Fones, one of two full-time employees who work as clerks at the shop. The shop also has four part-time clerks.

``I don't know when we'll be able to get some more dinosaur droppings,' van der Lippe said. ``You just cannot go out and find that.'

Amber, praised for its power to bring good luck, is sold in a variety of ways, from a $500 necklace to a pair of $14 earrings. Amber, as any kid who's studied it will tell you, is the fossilized sap taken from trees that have been underground for millions of years.

But there are plenty of affordable reasons to stop at the Thesaurus Shoppe, van der Lippe said.

There are a few items children can buy for less than the price of a candy bar, such as wooden or rubber animals, pens and pencils, badges and the like.

``We stress education, and that's why so many of the things have explanation cards like the ones that go with the rocks we sell,' van der Lippe said.

In that vein, there are model rockets, a three-dimensional Pteradactyl kite, a weather station, a working volcano model, scale models of the major dinosaurs, stuffed animals, patches of United States space missions, rugs with solar systems printed on them, and on and on.

``The idea behind the shop is the same as the idea behind the museum,' said museum director Edward van der Lippe, who is husband to the shop director. ``That is, to stimulate interest in science and nature in children by making it fun and interesting. And soon, they will learn that science and nature actually is fun and interesting.'

The van der Lippes say money raised from purchases at the shop go back to the museum.

Interest in dinosaurs among Greensboro children may increase in the next few months.

``Dinosaurs, A Moving Experience,' is a traveling exhibit that is at the center through May 27. It's billed as ``the largest, most realistic dinosaur exhibit ever in North Carolina,' in brochures sent out to schools in the area.

The exhibit features eight almost life-size dinosaurs that move and roar in simulation of the real thing, as well as hands-on exhibits, films and presentations.

Greensboro residents are allowed in the museum free from 1 to 5 p.m. the first Wednesday of each month. When the traveling dinosaur exhibit is in town, Greensboro residents will be allowed in free today, April 4, May 2 and May 6.

While the dinosaur exhibit is at the museum, fees will be: for Greensboro residents, adults, $3; children $2; and children 3 and under, free. Non-Greensboro residents will be charged, for adults, $4; children, $3; children 3 and under, free.

After the dinosaurs leave, fees will be 50 cents less in each category. Admission to the planetarium is $1 for all regardless of traveling dinosaur exhibit, and admission to the zoo is included in the price of admission for the museum.

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