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Digging Science with Fossils

This article appeared in the July 24, 2015 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

Digging Science with Fossils

Explorit campers David Osgood, Alex Waden, Colin Lee and Pierce Lubell excavate fossil trays.

 

By Lisa Justice

Special to the Enterprise

 

Summer Science Camp is sizzling right along at Explorit Science Center and the fun continues in the coming weeks with our geology camp! Campers will test mineral samples for hardness, compare volcanic eruptions and engineer earthquakes to learn about plate tectonics.

 

They will also become junior paleontologists for a day as they excavate fossils, assemble dinosaur bones and discover how some remains have survived for millions of years while others have not. You can join in the dig at home by making your own fossil excavation tray.

 

You will need: a disposable pie pan, plaster of Paris, water, a disposable container such as a large yogurt bucket, a disposable spoon or stirring stick, and fossil items such as chicken bones, sea shells or rigid plastic toys, plus excavation tools like toothpicks, old toothbrushes or paint brushes, or plastic cutlery. Scatter your fossil items in the pie pan and spread them out.

 

Mix the plaster of Paris with water according to the instructions on the package in your disposable container, then pour it over your fossil items in the pie pan. The plaster will flow over and around your fossils. Let it harden over night.

 

When the plaster is completely dry, the excavation can begin! Remember, paleontologists have to be very careful about removing fossils, because they don’t want to break or scratch them. That’s why we can’t just smash the plaster and get the fossils out.

 

To work like paleontologists do, we’ll use picks and small brushes. Toothpicks can scrape the plaster away a little bit at a time without being big or strong enough to hurt the fossil. Small brushes like toothbrushes or paint brushes help brush away the dust so we can see what we’ve uncovered.

 

Did you get any fossils out of the plaster? How long did it take? How long do you think paleontologists have to dig to get out a big dinosaur bone? Can you think of any other tools that you could use that would be safe for the fossils?

 

You can share pictures of your excavation experience with us at www.facebook.com/explorit.fb!

 

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Explorit’s coming events:

 

  • Explorit’s Exploration Gallery is open to the public every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, 1:00-5:00 p.m. and every Friday, 3:00-6:00 p.m.  Admission is $5.00 per person; Explorit members, teachers and children 2 and under are free. Come check out the new “Our World in Water” activities!
  • Interested in helping out the community through board membership? Explorit is currently seeking individuals in the community to serve as members of our volunteer board. Please call or email for additional information on how to apply.
  • Interested in membership?  Think your Explorit membership may have lapsed?  Call Explorit at 530-756-0191 to check or sign up!
  • Birthdays are back at Explorit!  Call Explorit at 530-756-0191 for more information or to book your party.

 

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Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit http://www.explorit.org, or “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/explorit.fb.

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