Fossil Summer Camp

Jen here –

Discussing teeth next to the T. rex replica in the geology gallery!
This past summer I was given the opportunity to redesign a summer camp that has been taught at the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture for many years. I spent a long time going over the previous content from the summer camp and making it more engaging for the students. This meant coming up with new activities and crafts to keep the students occupied for three hours a day for one week.

The museum staff and I worked hard to promote the summer camp alongside the other camp for older students, Archaeokids! Archaeokids was a similar camp as the fossil camp but focused on archaeology rather than paleontology. Both archaeology and paleontology are fantastic sciences to get young students excited about learning. Both fields involve active learning by engaging the students with specimens from dig sites or fossil localities! I was asked to do a short interview to promote my camp to get more students enrolled, you can view it here.

Starting our sediment excavation outside on a beautiful day! The students also learned the importance of note taking.
Each day of the summer camp had a different theme that we could organize activities around. Here were the different themes in order: Fossils and fossil formation, rocks and the rock cycle, vertebrate anatomy, trace fossils, and artistic license and interpretation. The last activity of every day was exploring sediment to identify different animals that would have been found in the ancient environment. We had two teams one had sediment from the Ordovician and the other from the Mississippian. The first day we spent focusing on surface collection, just using our eyes to collect fossils from the pile of sediment. The following two days were spent sieving the sediment to see how things changed when we looked at a specific size of sediment and animals. The students really enjoyed being able to pick through the sediment to find the critters.

Exploring geologic time and taking about events that happened along the time scale.
The culmination of our sediment excavation was to draw out the environment that the sediment is recording. They were able to use a fossil guidebook that I made for them and the gallery exhibits of the reconstructed environments. They then were able to present their environments to their friends and discuss the differences! Both environments had some similar and some different animals. They got to pass around the different ones and talk about them. It was a very successful week and we all had a lot of fun!

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