A collection of eager children wiggled in their seats at the World of Wonders Science Museum on Saturday morning during the third annual Digology event. They had been told by their parents that digging for fossils was in the plan for the day, but first there was some learning to do.
“We’re here to learn about dinosaurs. They’re extinct. What does that mean?” asked museum staffer Anne Weisenberg.
“They turned into bones.”
“They’re not around anymore.”
All these answers were correct. The kids answering them were all about to find out exactly what happens to leftover dinosaur bones after millions of years in the ground.
The was a short video on archeologists and a quick vocabulary lesson: Paleontologist, excavate, fossil, Eureka!
Armed with Digology t-shirts and safari hats, the group stomped and growled their way over to the dig site, just like a dinosaur might have done.
A room in the parking garage adjacent to the museum was transformed into a rocky forest zone, as though the room was carved out of a mountain.
The walls were lined with potted trees and high fences. The only light in the room was a tall work lamp and a few lanterns set up near the digging area.
To complete the scene, there was a camping tent set up inside, and sounds of birds and insects floated over the miniature scientists.
The main feature was dirt. The ground was covered in a thin layer, and about a dozen small piles of dirt were lined up neatly in rows.
Each child was armed with a simple paintbrush, led to a pile and instructed to dig.
It was only a few minutes before Liam Benedict, 10, shouted “Eureka!”
He was the first to find a large brick shaped object in his dirt pile. He hammered at the clod with the end of his paintbrush. A museum volunteer stepped in with a small spade to crack open the brick. Benedict brushed away the remaining dirt and held up his prize: a dinosaur tooth.
Soon, the rest of the children found their bricks and prized them open to discover teeth, claws and small bones.
“Look what I found!” said Trent Simas, 6, as he showed a large tooth to his dad, Christian Simas.
Sally Snyde, museum director, said the “fossils” were replicas of true fossils locked inside bricks the museum staff made two weeks ago.
Dirt, sand and plaster of Paris are mixed up in a wheelbarrow. Small bread pans are filled with the muck and he fossil replicas are tucked inside and left to dry until the day of the dig.
“It’s messy, but it’s so much fun!” said Snyde.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.