Fossil-mania

I’ve blogged before about how much we love the Young Scientists Club, and with every month that goes by and every kit we do, that love gets bigger and bigger. From petri dishes full of bacteria and fungi to studying the states of matter, we’ve had a tremendous amount of fun.

The kids recently worked their way through the fossils kit, learning about different types of fossils and how they are made. B is now planning on being a paleontologist when she grows up. Why?

Because of this:

A dinosaur fossil. It’s a cast fossil, to be precise, made by placing a plastic dinosaur in sand to form an imprint, and then filling in that imprint with plaster of paris. This one is a triceratops.

K made the link between what they did with the plaster and the plastic dinosaur to the cast fossils they made of people trapped under the ash left by Mount Vesuvius and just that quickly another exploration of volcanology was underway. Except for B — she was fixated on the archaeology side of things. She dug out several books and some half-done kits digging plastic dinos out of egg-shaped plaster bits that we got at the dollar store and announced that her future is set: she’s going to be an archaeologist.

“Don’t you mean paleontologist?” I asked her, and it turned out she didn’t know the difference.

As luck would have it, the Billings Estate Museum is running a summer program for kids 6 to 12 on archaeology. Every thursday afternoon in August, you learn about archaeology and try your hand at various things. I had signed the kids up for the program way back in June, and this week was their first class.

They loved it.

They learned a lot, and did a lot, too. They set up a grid over their dig site, excavated carefully quadrant by quadrant, and assembled their finds. I came in at the end, when they were examining, assembling, and cataloguing their finds, and they had found many things. Once reassembled from their shards, it turned out that they ahd found hundred year old china teacups from Limoges, France; a pottery eggcup of unknown provenance; an antique silver wine goblet almost black with tarnish; and a stoneware plate from… Ikea.

It’s true – when the examined the bottom, they found the tell-tale logo printed on the bottom. Not hand-stamped and somewhat blurry like the Limoges china. Not engraved with an artist’s mark like the silver goblet. Printed. By a machine. Perfectly. And not faded at all.

The plate, K pointed out, was most definitely was modern because they didn’t have Ikea in the early days of Ottawa.

Interestingly, even knowing that the finds had been planted in their quadrants before the class began, he was okay with that as long as the items were actually old. But discovering that someone had added a plate of modern provenance made him mad. What’s the point of doing archaeology if the stuff isn’t even old?

So, we discussed the idea of layers indicating age and pointed out that modern artifacts can, in fact, contaminate an ancient site that has been pushed to the surface by the movement of the earth and that one of the jobs of archaeologists is to determine which artefact belongs to which timeline. K seems mollified but still rather suspicious that this might, in fact, just be a line to keep him interested in the program.

B, on the other hand, has announced that she doesn’t care about next week’s program but she must must must attend the week after. Week three, they’ll dig up animal bones. Real animal bones. And she loves animals. She wants to be a veterenarian, after all. Or maybe a paleontologist.

Right after she wins So You Think You Can Dance Canada.

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