2019 DIG Field School Summary

The DIG Summer Program takes K-12 teachers into the field in Hell Creek, MT for a week of hands-on learning about what it means to be a paleontologist. After the culmination of the program, participants bring the newly acquired skills scientific experiences aback to their own classrooms. They can also stay connected to the program throughout the year by requesting Burke boxes containing sediment that they can sort for fossils with their students!

This year was the 10th anniversary of the DIG Field School! We welcomed 27 teachers into the field from 16 different states and Canada. The first day of the program was mainly aimed to familiarize participants with the equipment and basic skills, such as GPS use, and concluded with an instructor led overview of the research projects for the week.

The second and third day of the program consisted of micro-vertebrate collection and macro vertebrate excavation. Lessons for the days included an introduction to the geological timescale and rock formations of the site, a mapping and sediment collection activity, a fossil ID workshop, and a hands-on lesson about macro fossil evacuations using a recently discovered Triceratops! Back at the camp in the evening, participants learned how to screenwash the sediment they had collected. Later in the night they bonded with one another through group activities.

The fourth day began with a reflection of the previous days and participants were divided into groups to work on their own research projects based upon the different localities in Hell Creek. They were expected to plan, lead, and report on their findings in the evening, finishing the day with a public presentation led by Dr. Dave Grossnickle. On the final day of the program after a week of hard but rewarding work, the groups dived into more fossil sorting activities, paleo-themed board games, and paleontology literature. Later that afternoon, participants were invited to a local museum in town and on an Ammonite-Cruise before graduating the program with a small ceremony in the evening.

Here’s what one teacher had to say about their experience:

“The DIG Field School was one of the top professional development activities in which I have ever participated. From arrival at camp to departure, DIG educators were immersed in a pedagogy and content-rich environment that was highly engaging. Every detail of the camp was well thought out, and the NGSS Crosscutting Concepts, DCI’s and Science and Engineering Practices were integrated in a seamless way into every activity we participated. Course material and NGSS connections were presented in a way that was applicable and meaningful to educators across all grades. We not only had the benefit of learning from the highly knowledgeable instructors themselves but also from other passionate educators. This was the experience of a lifetime and re-energized me as a science educator.”

Overall, it was a great way to recognize 10 years of the DIG Field School!

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