Student Features

Science enthusiast meets 'Jurassic Park' paleontologist

Dec 8, 2016

PA Cyber student Morgana Costanzo had a dream fulfilled recently when she met renowned paleontologist Jack Horner during her family's visit to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

"It was just being in the right place at the right time," said Morgana, a ninth-grader from Preston Park.

"It was really awesome, and a real dream come true for Morgana," said her mother, Sarah Costanzo.

Morgana and her family didn't expect to run into one of the most famous paleontologists in the world when they went Dec. 1 to see "Jurassic World," an immersive exhibit that recreates the fictional narrative of the movie about an island resort theme park with biologically engineered dinosaurs.

The family purchased advanced tickets three months ago and Morgana, who has loved dinosaurs since she was little, and wants to be a paleontologist, was particularly excited for the experience.

Horner, who has worked on all the "Jurassic Park" films, collaborated with Franklin Institute on the exhibit, which features theatrical lighting and dramatic music just like the movie. He happened to be in the exhibit's stegosaurus area when Morgana and her family walked in.

Caught up in the moment, Morgana said she didn't immediately recognize him. He couldn't ignore her excitement.

"He tapped me on the shoulder and said that he loved my reaction to seeing the stegosaurus. We got to talking and it turns out it was Jack Horner. He's a famous paleontologist that has worked on all four of the 'Jurassic Park' movies, he helped create the it was really cool."

Horner introduced himself to Morgana. She said he was "very friendly and nice," and the people with him were all pleasant. She told Horner she wants to be a paleontologist when she gets older. She said he encouraged it and said it was great. He also posed for a few photos.

Sarah Costanzo said Morgana talks about paleontology all of the time, and most recently, has been interested in Horner's "dinosaur chicken" project — genetically modifying the DNA of a chicken to eventually create a chicken-sized dinosaur.

"Morgana really looks up to him," she said.

Morgana enjoys science club through PA Cyber, and has made a few friends there, whom she talks with outside of school.

She is the oldest of three children, who Sarah Costanzo said this "amazing" experience never would have been possible if they were not enrolled in PA Cyber.

"Because of this program, our kids have been able to have some experiences that would not have happened with traditional school," she said.

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About PA Cyber

Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) is one of the largest, most experienced, and most successful online public schools in the nation. PA Cyber's online learning environments, personalized instructional methods, and choices of curricula connect Pennsylvania students and their families with state-certified and highly-qualified teachers, and rich academic content that is aligned to state standards. Founded in 2000, PA Cyber is headquartered in Midland (Beaver County) and maintains a network of support offices throughout the state. As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment by any school-age child residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and does not charge tuition to students or families.