AND HERE you thought the financial control board's presence had pushed the D.C. Council toward extinction. Thanks to some enterprising youngsters at Smothers Elementary School, city lawmakers have been given a reprieve to perform an important legislative task. If they do their jobs as well as the students have done theirs, the study of science and D.C. history in city public schools will take a giant leap forward.

This month the council's committee of the whole will conduct a public hearing on a measure researched and lobbied by Smothers students called the "Official Dinosaur Designation Act of 1998." The idea is to give the nation's capital an officially designated dinosaur known as "Capitalsaurus." And you know what? The proposed law is based on some excellent evidence-gathering and exhaustive legwork by Smothers Elementary's budding scientists.

Here's what they learned through their expedition. About 110 million years ago, a large meat-eating reptile roamed this area along with many other dinosaurs of the plant-eating variety. And 100 years ago -- in January 1898, to be precise -- remains of this meat-eating dinosaur were discovered where First and F streets now meet -- by workers on a sewer connection project. The young scientists of Smothers determined that the vertebra of the dinosaur was given to the Smithsonian Institution as a gift by one J. K. Murphy on Jan. 28, 1898. Amazingly, a fossil of this type has not been discovered anywhere else in the world, according to the students and their adviser, Dr. Peter Kranz, president of the Dinosaur Fund. That explains why the students have come up with the dandy name Capitalsaurus.

These students aren't novices. They have helped out on other dinosaur fossil digs and have been studying area dinosaurs for years. Now they hope the city will issue a commemorative automobile license plate depicting the Capitalsaurus to help raise funds toward fossil preservation and dinosaur study in the District. They've even composed a lobbying song called, what else? "Them Dino Bones." Now they need the votes.