Experience a Fossil Dig

By Mary Alice Hartsock

Photos by Bruce Tepper/ANS

Imagine you are clad with expedition attire and goggles, your fossil brush in hand. You step gingerly over some rocks as you take in the wind-swept badlands of New Mexico. In the distance, something catches your eye. You can almost make out a promising shape slightly exposed on the brown, dry terrain. You are a curious paleontologist, and you simply must find out what it is.

You’ve entered The Big Dig, the Academy’s very own fossil dig, which underwent renovations in fall 2014. The biggest addition actually sounds tiny—but that’s only because it’s catered to our very smallest paleontologists.

Nestled inside The Big Dig, the Little Dig activity involves using a brush to sweep aside child-safe inert cork bits to reveal dinosaur bones. Younger paleontologists will likely uncover a Lambeosaurus skull or an Ornithomimus arm and claw. A clever clipboard graphic identifies the bones found in the dig.

Slightly older kids can pick up a chisel and grab one of the new double-sided map handouts, which depict species to search for in The Big Dig experience. Then tap on the hard rock with your chisel as you work to uncover some bones.

Magnetic Play AreaDigging isn’t the only thing to occupy explorers in The Big Dig exhibit. A new dramatic play wall with magnetic, movable dinosaur silhouettes covers the low wall opposite the digging space. Placed upon a charming Cretaceous landscape, dinosaur magnets that match the species in the dig are labeled with a scientific name and illuminated by custom-designed LED lights. You may have a hard time deciding which activity to choose first!

So what’s hiding under the rocks? Will you uncover a duckbill dinosaur or a Tyrannosaurus rex? Find out during your next visit. Get information on hours and transportation at ansp.org.

Purchase tickets today!

The Academy is especially grateful to the Leo Model Foundation for making the renovation of The Big Dig possible.

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