The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis fulfills every science-oriented child’s dream.
To go on a paleontology dig and then have your find deposited, carefully and with purpose, back into a scientific repository where it will be studied, carefully preserved, and even prepared on public display in the museum’s fossil preparation lab.
Recently, Outbound Adventurer spoke with Dallas Evans, the Science Curator at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, as a part of our series on ethical paleontology digs in the United States. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, or TCMIndy as it is affectionately known, is currently in its 12th year taking the public out to dig.
Digs at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis fall into three main categories: family digs, teacher digs, and adult digs.
The family digs welcome young paleontologists from age 8 and onward on field digs with their families. These digs last for 2 days, and experienced paleontologists and science educators will help budding scientists explore the Ruth Mason Quarry in South Dakota, outside of Faith, South Dakota. This site is in the Hell Creek Formation, famous for its T. rex bones and full of rocks of Maastrichtian age, at the very end of the Age of Dinosaurs–the Mesozoic Period. Transportation and food is the responsibility of the visitors on these family trips–everyone pays for driving or airfare.
However, once you arrive at the dig site, your travels and efforts are well rewarded. The Ruth Mason Quarry is famous as an Edmontosaur bonebed, chock full of the bones of an assemblage of these duck-billed dinosaurs. The gentle giants died here or were washed into the same deposit, and TCMIndy averages new finds of 200-300 bones per season. The instructors take their time with the material, and ensure that the youngest students on up to adults are comfortable with the material.
Teacher digs are 5 day expeditions into the field, and offer continuing professional development credit for attending educators. If you join a dig with TCMIndy you can not only follow the process of paleontology from fossil prospecting to field collection and jacketing – your students can also track the progress of the fossils you have found. The official fossil repository for every find is the TCMIndy, and you as a teacher can have fossils stored at the museum, for you and your students to view under the prep lab microscopes or perhaps someday even on display. For teachers only, lunch and lodging is paid for.
Teachers can also enjoy other continuing professional education (CPE) credits at TCMIndy in a wide variety of fields.
The adult-only digs are also five days, but they are especially exciting for those who have always wanted to go on a paleontology field dig. The adult-only digs follow much the same itinerary as the teacher digs, with class time before and after the digs at the museum, as well as instruction in the field.
The dig’s special setting in South Dakota, regardless of the age of the participants, allows a unique opportunity for families, teachers, and adult learners to experience procedures on paleontological digging and mapping, scientific photography, gridding, prospecting, and fossil jacketing. Participants also experience rural ranch life in South Dakota, thanks to the local ranch owners and guides who help make the experience comfortable and welcoming.
When students of all ages return back to the TCMIndy, the museum’s unique Dinosphere experience includes a paleontology preparation lab with windows that provide a view into the process of preparing jacketed bones.
As what we would call in paleontology a secondary deposit, and a death assemblage, the fossils at Ruth Mason quarry were all tumbled in from a myriad of other places in the same way bison bones are washed down a river and lodge in the same river bend, tumbled over and over across the span of time.
The museum maintains a digital database to store information on collected fossil material, and within a year of collection, Dallas Evans guarantees a collected fossil will be prepped and conserved in the paleontology preparation lab.
As TCMIndy celebrates the 10th anniversary of its dinosaur gallery, the Dinosphere, we look forward to what is to come from this fantastic museum in the heart of Indianapolis!
Ages: Age 8 to Adult
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The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
3000 North Meridian Street
Indianapolis, IN 46208