July 12--NORMAN -- Katerina Ozment, an incoming junior at Norman North High School, and George Huang, an incoming sophomore at Moore High School, recently returned from Paleo Expedition, a two-week field science experience that included a week of digging for dinosaur fossils.
The location of this year's dig was on the southeastern tip of the Morrison Formation in Black Mesa State Park, an area in the Oklahoma panhandle prime for impressive finds.
Paleo Expedition is part of ExplorOlogy, an educational program created by the Sam Noble Museum and funded in part by the Whitten-Newman Foundation. Ozment was among 12 participants selected statewide for the 15-day residential adventure.
During the program, participants learned paleontology basics at the museum and traveled to Oklahoma geological and paleontological field sites, including Black Mesa, Oklahoma's highest elevation point, where they assisted scientists from the Sam Noble Museum and Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences with the excavation site.
"Paleo Expedition and our other ExplorOlogy programs provide unique, hands-on science experiences for Oklahoma's students, and few programs offer such close mentorship from research scientists who are experts in their fields at no cost to participants, thanks to the generous support of Sam Noble Museum and other donors," said ExplorOlogy® coordinator Carrie Fisher-DeBoer. "During Paleo Expedition, participants don't just observe scientists in action -- they are part of the process, contributing to authentic research in several fields."
For Ozment, Paleo Expedition offered new experiences. "Paleo Expedition gave me the opportunity to participate in science in a new," Ozment said.
Participants enjoyed hiking to the top of Black Mesa State Park and viewing the unique local wildlife. Using critical thinking, students developed their own experiments about environmental diversity as Katrina Menard, museum curator of recent invertebrates, led them through the diverse habitats of Black Mesa, observing different types of invertebrates and their surroundings.
"My experience at Paleo Expedition has shown me how much work goes into answering the questions that we have," Ozment said. "All the knowledge that we learn comes from a lot of work and perserverance."
For Huang, Paleo Expedition was an eye-opening experience. "Paleo Expedition has made me realize that not everything is like the movies, and paleontology is a complicated job." Huang said.
"It was a lot of fun to discover the fossils at Black Mesa, and then send them to the museum to be cataloged and put either in the collection or on display," Huang said. "I'm going to be a paleontologist. Ever since I was three I've been saying that, and now I'm sure."
The ExplorOlogy program also includes "Oklahoma Science Adventure," a weeklong residential program for middle school students; "SciencEscape," a spring break program for teachers and students to enjoy together; and a summer Science Institute just for teachers.
Additional information about the ExplorOlogy Program can be found online at explorology.snomnh.ou.edu. The Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History is located on the University of Oklahoma Norman campus at Timberdell Road and Chautauqua Avenue.
Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors 65 and up, and $3 for youth ages 6 to 17. Children ages 5 and under receive complimentary admission. Discounts are available for military personnel and their immediate families. For accommodations on the basis of disability, call 325-4712.
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