Every dinosaur fan dreams of finding that one magic bone—or better yet, a complete skeleton—that will set the world of paleontology on fire. Of course, very few ever do. But that’s no reason not to try.
Since 2003 The Children’s Museum has been offering budding paleontologists, their families, and teachers a chance to take part in the search for dinosaur remains at the Ruth Mason Quarry in Faith, South Dakota. The museum’s annual Dino Dig—which takes place at one of the largest duckbill dinosaur sites in the world—has proven to be one of its most popular summer programs.
“We teach participants how to work a site, how to excavate properly, and how to discover dinosaur bones,” Dallas Evans, educator/curator of the museum’s Natural Science Collection explained in an article in the summer 2012 issue of the museum members magazine Extra!.
The result has been the discovery of more than 1,000 fossils that are now part of the museum’s natural science collection. It’s often a child who spots something valuable, even in the most closely examined areas. “There’s always one child who finds something tiny and significant that everyone else missed,” said Evans.
Adults make discoveries, too. On the very first Dino Dig, for example, a teacher found a dinosaur skin impression, something so rare that nothing like it had ever been found at the site before.
Regardless of the significance of the discoveries, the real value of a Dino Dig is the experience of being there, said Evans. “You can’t go wrong digging dinosaurs. It’s the perfect first introduction to science for many children.”
Back at the Museum
But the experience doesn’t end in South Dakota. Once the dig is over, the newly discovered fossils are brought to the museum’s Paleo Prep Lab where they are cleaned and prepared for inclusion in the museum’s collection. After millions of years underground, the fossils have a new home in a place where they’re appreciated for the clues they provide about life in the Cretaceous era.
For information abut future Dino Digs, visit childrensmuseum.org/dino-digs.