Dino Dig: Oklahoma Students Get Rare Opportunity to Study Fossils
School districts all over the country are going all out to get students interested in the sciences, and it turns out that Oklahoma has one of the best opportunities in the entire nation.
It’s a real Jurassic park.
Starting in January, school and youth groups can request to visit a dinosaur dig in Cimarron County, where they can dig for dinosaur bones and learn about the region’s history.
For three million years, the Cimarron River system has been cutting canyons in the western tip of the panhandle.
That's created unexpected beauty, that's different from the rest of our state and worth the trip to experience.
You can see dinosaur tracks in the creek bottoms and literally touch a different world with very different wildlife.
Fossils from those animals are found at the dig site.
Dr. Anne Weil of the OSU Health Science Center said, “We have one from the site that was more like a coyote, that with a crocodilian head and it could run around fast."
The area west of Boise City has provided some of the most impressive exhibits for the University of Oklahoma's Sam Noble Museum.
People from that museum and the OSU Health Science Center will teach young explorers how they are found.
When we visited, some Tulsa Boy Scouts were hunting for fossils in the Jurassic clay.
It's painstaking work that's done with a sharpened chopstick and a paint brush
It got their attention, and they learned it takes some patience.
You don’t just dig up a fossil. You remove everything around it until only the fossil remains.
The experience had the desired effect on the young men.
Boy Scout Ameer Abouhouli said, "It was a really great experience and I might want to be a geologist or something like that when I grow up."
The people who run the site love to see the kids get engaged in the effort and the outdoors.
They understand the need for us all to get away from our video screens.
Dr. Weil said, "I find the digital environment really enthralling. I could be on Facebook a lot of the time."
Putting a plaster cast on a dinosaur bone made these kids forget about video games.
They're also encouraged to forget about where they are working.
The location must be kept secret, to keep thieves away.
Kyle Davies of the Noble Museum said, “They don’t care about the science or anything else, and so they’ll just literally tear the place up trying to find that trophy that they can sell for big bucks somewhere."
Most of the visits for young people are done in the month of June.
While Oklahoma groups get preferential treatment, any youth group can apply.
Dr. Anne Weil schedules the visits and she would love to hear from you.