The latest manifestation of the genre, T-REX: Back to the Cretaceous , has just opened at the IMAX Cinema at the Trocadero, Piccadilly, in London,where it will play for six months. It may then move to the IMAX in Bradford.
This film is said to be an advance on earlier IMAX products in that it attempts to tell a story. To be honest, that aspect of the 40-minute feature is pretty minimal: Ally Hayden, daughter of a paleontologist, breathes gases from a cracked dinosaur egg and time-travels from her father's museum headquarters to the Cretaceous period and to earlier eras of dinosaur study. In other words, technology is king here, but, although there is no attempt to develop a drama, or introduce moral questions as in Jurassic Park, care has been taken over accuracy: much of the live-action filming took place in Dinosaur Park, a rich fossil source, in Alberta, Canada.
Ally is played (by Liz Stauber) as a serious-minded teenage science enthusiast, so teachers can rest assured about role-models as well as about the respect given to scientific method. Liz, who attended the screening, says that she had to act to nothing more than a blue screen as the computer-generated dinosaurs were added later. She was chosen as a natural, unshowy performer: "You just can't hide anything on that screen" and, indeed, it is the size of a house. All the better for looking up T-Rex's nostril. Special school party rates: #163;3.50 per child. Tickets: 0171 494 4153. One adult admission ticket presented at the Natural History Museum will be rewarded with one free admission for a child.
Back in the real world, musicians and teachers got piped aboard HMS Belfast, moored near the Tower of London, for the launch of The Masterclass Music Charitable Trust. The trust has already set up two major projects. The first is a newly-commissioned mass, sponsored by the Royal Armouries, from Karl Jenkins to celebrate peace "at the end of the most violent century in man's history" - hence the warship venue. The other is a scheme to bring music to the children on the Longhill Estate in Hull. Classic FM will broadcast the mass, to be played and sung by youth music ensembles such as the National Youth Orchestra.
The Hands On project in Hull introduces instruments to children. There is also a plan by which the trust will collaborate with the Federation of Music Services to develop music-teaching videos. For information: 0181 879 1212.
The count-down to the Millennium is underway - fewer than 400 days to go - but the count-down to Christmas is becoming urgent. The Museum of London has set up a giant Advent calendar featuring "hot toys" of the past 50 years in the Toy Stories display, which you can see until January 3. Early items in the exhibition include a Roman "good luck" New Year oil lamp and Tudor New Year finger rings. Look out for Christmas annuals, Meccano, Hornby trains, Teletubbies and Nintendo from more recent times. On December 13 children can make a "Victorian" toy to take home. Information: 0171 600 3699.
There are more opportunities for making things at the Crafts Council , 44a Pentonville Road, London N1 9BY. Wacky Bags (for seven to 12-year-olds,December 19, #163;5) and Colourful and Whimsical Bags (for 11 to 14-year-olds, December 20, #163;10) are workshops offered as part of the Satellites of Fashion exhibition. Tel: 0171 278 7700 for information.
Meanwhile, Huddersfield Art Gallery is offering school children the chance to make Crazy Christmas Cartoons on December 7 and 14. Bookings: 01484 221964.
Teachers torn between delight and premature grey hairs during the run-up to end-of-term concerts and plays might like to know about an ambitious scheme run by Welsh National Opera . OperaKit is offered where WNO are touring: this term they are in Birmingham, next in Bristol and London. Professionals, including a director, singers, instrumentalists and a designer, lead workshops to enable children aged nine to 11 to work on every aspect of opera, from composing to designing. Regents Park Primary in Small Heath, Birmingham, will present their definitive version of The Forest Child, based on Richard Edwards' book, on December 17. Information about OperaKit: ring Richard Steer on 012222 464666.