Dinosaur Excavation and Taphonomic Research Project

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Train up a child in the way he should go, And even when he is old he will not depart from it.   
Proverbs 26:6


The Dinosaur Excavation Project is a serious scientific study dealing with fragile specimens that must be handled carefully with data that must be determined accurately and recorded errorlessly. It is vital that all participants working with the bones observe the project's protocols to process the specimens properly. Generally, the project utilizes university students and science teachers of all grades as well as interested adults. Participants are instructed in the appropriate procedures and quickly gain experience but work under the supervision of the quarry supervisor and the project leaders.

The Dinosaur Project is not a children's "dino dig." However, children are welcomed to observe and perform limited supervised work.

We expect that all children will be accompanied on-site by their parent, guardian, relative, or other adult who is responsible for them.

Generally children that are not yet in high school do not have the maturity and attention span to work successfully in the quarries for an extended length of time or independently for any length of time. It is a distraction to other participants and potentially dangerous to the children if they are permitted to be in the quarry or camp areas without fairly constant and direct supervision. All children are to be supervised by a parent (or guardian or other adult). This implies that a parent of these children should not expect to devote 100% of his or her time working with the bones.

Because of the nature of the scientific work the same protocols for handling the bones and safety rules must apply to all participants. If, in the opinion of the quarry supervisor and/or the project directors, any child (or adult) is not following the needs of careful safe work, then the child (or adult) may be asked to leave the quarry and, in the case of a child, the parent will be required to watch the child.

It is not only the time spent actually excavating the fossils that is of concern. The group in the field spends considerable time together in and out of the quarries. It is vital that everyone cooperate and carry out all assigned responsibilities including chores and adherence to the camp rules and guidelines including observance of quiet times. Not adhering to safety rules (such as not wearing eye protection in the quarries) cannot be tolerated.

We have also found by experience that an extended time in the field is not appropriate for children. We limit the Dinosaur Mini-course to three or four days for specific reasons including the time on-site, and these participants are closely supervised by more experienced workers. It is only for high school seniors, with appropriate academic background, that we allow credit to be earned which involves working for the full season.

It is important to understand that the chronological age of a person is not necessarily the best criterion. We have had a few early teen participants that performed better than some university students. Maturity, interest, attention span, desire, responsibility, willingness to pay attention to instruction, and the ability to learn quickly and follow guidelines are some of the important attributes. However, if you are considering bringing children, then understand the Dinosaur Project is not an appropriate extended "summer camp" for most participants below the age of a high school senior.

While a few days living in the camp and working in quarries might be a wonderful enriching experience that a child will remember fondly, too much of a good thing often has a deleterious effect! This is especially true if noncooperation leads to reprimand or limits for a lengthy time period. Under these circumstances the normally enjoyable season may become a negative experience for the children, the parents, and the other participants.

In summary, consider carefully these guidelines:

  • children are accompanied on-site by a parent or guardian
  • children are closely supervised both in and out of the quarry by a parent
  • the parent should not expect to spend all the time working independently
  • time on-site is limited to a week or less
  • best experience is for children who have expressed a real interest and can follow instruction and cooperate with guidelines


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