PROJECT PALEO: CITIZEN CURATION AT THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY
The “Project Paleo: Rancho La Brea” kit contains one tablespoon of unsorted fossil matrix from around the bones of “Zed,” a fossil mammoth found in LBTPM’s Project 23. Groups of students learn about past and present food webs of the Los Angeles Basin, then sort the matrix into several categories (bones, shells, insects, and rocks) using photo examples of each. This project is aimed at 4th-6th graders, and was recently piloted in a local charter school. Results will help to recreate past ecosystems of Southern California, and will serve as a reference collection for microfossils found at LBTPM.
The “Project Paleo: Marine Invertebrates of Southern California” kit produced by LACMIP, contains approximately two cups of washed but unsorted coarse fossil matrix from a salvaged (now destroyed) construction site. This kit is aimed at 5th grade Los Angeles Unified School District classrooms and homeschooling families. Students are asked to sort fossils by species and use included identification cards to identify the sorted fossils to the best of their ability. Results of this project will be included in an NSF funded digitization project and will contribute to research on the paleoecology of Pleistocene Southern California. Early evaluation has shown positive feedback from students and educators, as well as some room to improve instructions to students.
These kits are designed to conform to Next Generation Science Standards while generating useful data for museum scientists. Collections staff are able to outsource the curation of critical data to students who get the experience of handling real museum fossils and contributing to the body of paleontological research.