Today, i was able to see the Junior paleontologist‘s in action. The program’s classroom is located in the University of Chicago. This program takes a group of students,between grades 8th and 12th, to the Mammoth Site in South Dakota. But before the students go to the Mammoth Site they spend two weeks in a classroom learning about lots of different things. Today the students, like most programs, started out with some brain teasers just to get them awake and warmed up for the day. Like most people know waking up and going to class at 9 in the morning is not easy. But these students do it like nothing. Then Tyler Mason, a grad student at UofC in the Department of Geophysical Sciences,came and talked to the students about the rock cycle and how different rocks form into other rocks. Tyler is also a Paleo-fellow, someone who is has a background in Geology, to bridge the gap between the class and the world that they are about to enter. Students also learned about time, radiometric dating, that is when you measure the amount of radio active decay in something. Other things that the students learned was how to figure out half life’s of atoms and how to read striations in rocks, the layers of the rock. Even though i am a blogger for P.E., i was still learning lots of new things from this program and its content. When we were learning about the Earth and how plate tectonics work, i learned that Hawaii is constantly moving, much like our continents. New islands are always forming but the older islands are eroding away into nothing. Sooner or later the continents might come back together like Pangea, the super continent that was first around about 225 million years ago. After, the students learn for one week, about geology, they go out to Matthiessen State Park. At Matthiessen the students will go to a limestone quarry and look at cool rock formations. They will also do some fossil collection, go out to Starved Rock, and get to see some pretty awesome wildlife. Matthiessen is located in Utica, Illinois which is about 2 hours outside of Chicago. Then they have another weeks of class where they learn about animals and anatomy. They will also go to the Field Museum and see animals and there skeletons.Then the next week the kids go out to South Dakota to go to the Mammoth Site where they will excavate Mammoth bones in the bone bed, and do some paleontologist work and cast and jacket the bones, which is where they protect the bones. The students will also learn
about a prehistoric hunting tool called Atlatl. Being taught about what the students are going to learn before they go out to the site is really helpful. They get to learn about what exactly they are going to do so that they become familiar with it and know exactly what they are working with. Now when the students see rock layers and the fossils in it, they can relate it to the Earth cakes they made. Doing fun activities like the Earth cake project, where the students had to use cake and candy to represent how the fossils and rock formations look on Earth, and playing games, is just the half of it. Once the students get out to South Dakota they will have the time of there lives digging around for fossils and going on night hikes. Hope everyone has a good time. Good luck JPs!!! Oh and a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! To P.E. staff member Kristin Atman!!!