Southeastern Section - 65th Annual Meeting - 2016

Paper No. 13-3
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-5:30 PM


CRANE, Cynthia Danielle, Aurora Fossil Museum Foundation, Inc., PO Box 352 / 400 Main Street, Aurora, NC 27806-0352,

Since its inception in 1976, the Aurora Fossil Museum Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit 501c (3) science education center, continues to carry out its mission to educate on the paleontology, geology, and prehistory of coastal North Carolina in an informal and engaging manner. The Aurora Fossil Museum (AFM) was established on the basis of showcasing the rich paleontological record discovered in the neighboring phosphate mine. Operating today with a small staff, an active Board of Directors, and highly dedicated volunteers, the AFM continues to educate visitors through a variety of venues. Recent (2015) annual visitor data reveal 15,000 onsite visitors representing 90 of 100 North Carolina counties, every U.S. state, and six continents. Annual AFM outreach efforts have expanded to approximately 52,000 people served.

Aside from the displays of specimens collected by hobbyists, murals depicting scenarios from the mining process to ancient ecosystems, and outreach efforts, the star attractions are the fossil pits and the hands-on, inquiry-based resource they provide. Data show this resource is used in classrooms throughout North Carolina and across the United States to introduce Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)-based content focusing on paleontology and geology. More fossil pits based on the AFM model and material from the nearby phosphate mine continue to be established in science museums and parks statewide, nationally, and internationally as an educational tool and attraction.

Future studies on the impact of the AFM, as well as the in-house development of STEM-based curriculum and avocational/professional scientific collaborations, will assist in continuing the mission of the AFM and advancing the outreach and education efforts of this key eastern North Carolina resource.