Clark Planetarium will premiere a docudrama about dragons and partner with the Salt Lake County Library to provide free hands-on activities for families today.
The first showing of "Dragons: Real Myths and Unreal Creatures" will be at 11 a.m., with activities from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.
The activities include building a map of the constellation Draco from toothpicks and gummy bears, making dragon heads with construction paper and streamers, and a booth where visitors can learn more about library services, including its summer reading program.
"It's a kid-friendly, interesting topic, and we thought it would be a perfect fit for the summer," said Lindsie Smith, marketing and public-relations manager at Clark Planetarium, 100 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City.
Smith said she thinks children are especially captivated by dragons because of their mythical nature.
"They require a lot of imagination to conjure up," she said.
LuCinda Gustavson, senior youth services librarian, says children are inspired by dragons because the creatures have qualities the kids aspire to have.
"They're strong. They can fly. They have magical properties," Gustavson said. "They're all of the things kids want to do and be."
Seth Jarvis, director of Clark Planetarium, said he thinks it ties in nicely with the mission of the planetarium.
"You have simultaneously the mythology of dragons that transcends any one culture, and then you also have this constellation in the sky," Jarvis said.
The film talks about the ways various cultures interpret dragons, while providing a historically accurate account of the mythology surrounding them. The recommended viewing age is 8 and older, because of the visceral depiction of the dragons.
"Even though we know they're not real, they're so deeply ingrained in the culture that everyone seems to know about dragons," Jarvis said. "Even though nobody's ever seen one, we all know what you're talking about."
Jarvis likes the film because it gets viewers to think about multiple cultural perspectives.
"Dragons are socially real, but scientifically fictional," Jarvis said. "Yet, nonetheless, they are culturally important. Each culture treats dragons differently."
Jarvis hopes children learn that various cultures observe the natural world the same way, but differ in how they interpret it.
"People can experience the same physical reality and interpret it through the lens of their local culture," he said.
The film provides the lesson of blending cultures, which Jarvis thinks is important.
"If you can use a fictional creature as a hook to pull people in for a lesson on comparative social history and different cultures and their mythologies," he said, "that's a pretty good hook."