Northeastern Montana middle schoolers have just completed a unique camp that ties the allure of finding dinosaurs to the magic of technology. Guided by teachers who were a part of the ITEST Paleo Exploration Project, young people discovered a triceratops frill, the rib and tooth of a Tyrannosaurus rex, what is possibly a new flowering plant for the Cretaceous period, and the scientific method over the course of two one-week summer camps.
Led by UM Paleontology Center Director George Stanley, UM geologist and sediment specialist Marc Hendrix, and other university researchers, student-teacher teams from across Eastern Montana found, unearthed, photographed and recorded their discoveries as part of the Paleo Exploration Project, an ITEST project based out of the University of Montana.
24 middle school students and 11 teachers from across eastern Montana participated in the ITEST Paleo Exploration Project, which linked the group with scientists in the field (literally). Participants discovered that while digging for dinosaurs can be exciting, it's not as easy as the popular movie makes it seem, and sometimes a lot of patience is required to unearth even a single bone.
30 middle school teachers from 20 Eastern Montana schools are participants in the ITEST Paleo Exploration Project, created in partnership between the University of Montana and Fort Peck Paleontology. As part of this project, teachers go through several 2-day intensive trainings on using GPS units and GIS software; over summer, they will bring students to one of two summer institutes where they will do real, scientific work on fossil material that they (teachers and students) might find.
The Paleo Exploration Project’s (PEP) Summer Internship Program was part of a multi-dimensional, regional, education outreach program conducted by The University of Montana (authors) and funded by the National Science Foundation.
The University of Montana’s Paleo Exploration Project (PEP) was a professional development program for K-12 Montana teachers, which also provided authentic, field-based, residential summer research experiences for over 80 Montana middle school students. The program’s scientific focus was the ancient environments and fossils of eastern Montana, which to leveraged student’s innate interest in dinosaurs to build a deeper understanding of “doing science” and encouraged future pursuit of STEM coursework and careers.
Understanding science and technology is key to our next generation’s success. Conveying the excitement of science and effectively melding it with technology in both field and classroom settings can be a challenge for many K–12 educators. Middle school is a critical juncture in a child’s educational experience, when interest in science and technology is budding. If this interest is captured, it can lead to a lifetime of learning and, for some, a rewarding profession.