Paleo Exploration Project: Spatial Analysis of Fossil Finds in the Northern Plains
Fifty K-12 math, science, and technology teachers from tribal and frontier communities in eastern Montana, and over 80 area middle school students have gained hands-on experience using geospatial technologies while discovering dinosaur and other fossils
The Paleo Exploration Project has provided training in paleontology and geospatial analysis to 52 K-12 math, science, and technology teachers and over 80 middle school students from rural eastern Montana, an area that includes five of the state’s seven Indian reservations. Through a series of two-day weekend workshops, participating teachers learned about Montana's geologic history and fossil record, and were trained in the use sophisticated geospatial technologies to plan and conduct field-based geological investigations. During week-long summer research institutes they explored some of the richest late Cretaceous fossil beds on Earth lying virtually in their own backyards. The institutes proved particularly inspiring to participating students, who, working side-by-side with teachers and University of Montana graduate students and faculty, discovered an array of dinosaur, mammal, marine invertebrate, and plant fossils. Following the institutes, teachers returned to their own classrooms to implement age-appropriate, technology-embedded, inquiry-based lesson plans that they had created, signifying a significant change in their teaching approaches. The project also supports an ongoing summer internship program for area high school students at three field stations along Montana's "Dinosaur Trail". These sites include Mikoshika Dinosaur Museum in Glendive, the Dinosaur Field Station in Malta, and the Two Medicine Dinosaur Museum in Bynum. The internship program has strengthened capacity within and among these centers, leading to hands-on collaboration in the training and deployment of interns. Other project partners include the Northwest Regional Education Laboratory, which is providing evaluation services, and Explore Digital Education, Inc., which is creating a documentary film about the program.