Thursday, July 2, 2015

Digging Up the Past

Monday was our first day of camp.  Campers first learned the definitions and differences between archaeology and paleontology.  After a short, interactive quiz to test our new knowledge we were ready to check out some exhibits.  We got a chance to learn about the museum's mastodons and the humans who lived alongside them.  We even made our own "clovis points" which are a kind of spear head used by people of that period in this region.  Working as a group, campers also deciphered the order of the geologic time scale while learning about the major events and dominant animals of each period.  Our second craft of the day was making a piece of earth strata art.  Campers made a 3D picture of the unique layers of our earth's crust.  Paleontologists and archaeologists, alike, use an artifact or fossil's position within these layers to determine its relative age.
Building our strata craft

Adding rocks!
On Tuesday, we focused on dinosaurs!  First, campers got a tour of dinosaur highlights found on our second floor.  Once we were in the dino spirit, we colored and constructed our own styracosaurus hand puppets and learned about plant eating dinosaurs.  Do you ever wonder how dinosaurs and other animals get their names?  We learned about how dinosaurs are classified and grouped together by similar traits and then named for them.  Did you know Pachycephalosaurus means thick headed lizard in Latin?  We have one in our museum.  Fossils aren't usually found neatly put together.  It takes paleontologists a lot of time and effort to reconstruct a preserved animal.  We worked like paleontologists to reassemble our dinosaur reconstruction puzzles.  Ask your camper if it was easier to put the puzzle together with just a picture of a fossil or with a complete artist's rendition.

Styracosaurus hand puppets
Dino reconstruction puzzles!
Wednesday, we delved deeper into paleontology.  Campers also got a chance to simulate a real dino dig.  Using tools and techniques used by paleontologists, we dug up our own fossils casts and and decorated them with paint.  We also used our powers of inference to decipher some dinosaur footprint mysteries.  Our older campers even learned about how we learn about a dinosaur's size and speed just from its footprints.  Adaptations are an important part of survival for all creatures and an explanation for life's great diversity.  In our adaptation game we provided campers with different survival scenarios and they had to race to discover and choose adaptations that would help our animal survive harsh winters, blistering heat, lurking predators, and more.

Digging up our fossils!

Painting our teeth
Thursday was the last day of our shortened camp week.  Campers looked more closely at archaeology today and learned about ancient peoples rather than animals.  With our pot sherd mystery activity we learned how archaeologists can find the size and potential use of a bowl from just a small fragment.  We also tried our hand at cave drawings using pastels and crayons to draw our own depictions of ancient life.  What things are important to modern kids that we might find in our cave drawings?  Campers thought like archaeologists by looking through some artifacts and making inferences about their origins.  Where were they found?  How old do they look?  What modern day tools do they resemble?  These are all questions archaeologists ask to help them learn more about ancient people and their habits.
Planning our cave drawings
Working together for ideas
Working on our cave drawings

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