GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 190-6
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


MILLER, Hannah R., Geoscience, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1215 W Dayton St., MADISON, WI 53726, SO, Calvin, Biological Sciences, George Washington University, 800 22nd St, Suite 6000, Washington, DC 20052 and LOVELACE, David M., University of Wisconsin Geology Museum, 1215 W Dayton St, Madison, WI 53706

Outreach and education is an integral component for the broad scale goal of natural history museums in preserving the natural world for future generations. Sharing knowledge through interactive experiences allows visitors of all ages to take part in active learning and connect with the science on display. In this study, we explore teaching fossil preparation methods through hands-on learning. Fossil replicas were placed in a shallow container. The container was subsequently filled with a mixture of sand and paraffin wax, covering the replicas. The mixture simulates the rock matrix present during fossil excavation and preparation. Utilizing various ratios of wax to sand leads to different levels of matrix competence. A 1:1 ratio was ideal for a more ‘realistic’ excavation, while a 1:2 mixture (wax to sand) worked best for smaller, youth appropriate excavations. Variation in sand grain size and the addition of pigments demonstrate differences in strata and depositional environments. The matrix can be manipulated to simulate structural differences such as faulting or folding. These aspects give the public a more realistic experience than traditional activities, and incorporating structure, sedimentology, and stratigraphy gives the potential for utility beyond the field of paleontology. This method of hands-on education provides museum goers with an enriching and entertaining learning experience at a low cost investment to the museum itself. Providing visitors with these unique activities increases the broader impacts of a small museum and endows younger generations with the passion for learning.