Digging out the pastChildren peered through magnifying glasses, dug through rubble seeking ancient life forms, handled replicas of dinosaur fossils and drew pictures of the extinct critters Wednesday at the Duluth Children’s Museum during National Fossil Day.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Children peered through magnifying glasses, dug through rubble seeking ancient life forms, handled replicas of dinosaur fossils and drew pictures of the extinct critters Wednesday at the Duluth Children’s Museum during National Fossil Day.
Kayson Olson, 6, of Superior drew a snarling Tyrannosaurus Rex while 5-year-old Curran Conrad looked through a display of fossils found in the St. Louis Bay and other local shorelines.
“Curran wants to be a paleontologist,” said his mother, Nicki. “He loves dinosaurs and everything about them.”
Jack Matuzak, 9, looked through the local fossils for fun and as part of his pre-Halloween research.
“He’s going to be a dinosaur for Halloween,” said his mother, Samantha. Soon, she was drawn into peering at the stones embedded with shells, crystals and even bones with him.
This is the third year National Fossil Day has been celebrated at the museum, and in the nation. If Wednesday’s event proved anything, it was that kids aren’t the only ones who love dinosaurs. Emily Halbakken, education program manager for the museum, has worked as a paleontologist digging up dinosaur bones in Wyoming.
“I have always loved them,” she said. “Fossils are very precious. Every fossil can tell a story.”
Halbakken enjoys the enthusiasm children have when she pulls out fossils at the museum.
“I especially like third grade and younger,” she said. “They’re just wild about dinosaurs and fossils.” And they keep up on the newest dinosaur names and discoveries even better than Halbakken.
Connor Larson-Pearce of Superior began hunting fossils when she was about 7 years old.
“I was always interested in dinosaurs in general,” said the 18-year-old. When her neighbor Pat Bartell brought her out to the bay to find her own fossils, “it was awesome.”
Over the years, the two have scoured shorelines for dull limestone rocks that hold the area’s history.
“There are so many life histories in our rocks,” Pearce said.
It’s also a chance to get out and enjoy nature instead of going online or being glued to a cell phone.
“I guarantee if you find a fossil all on your own,” Pearce said,” You’ll be excited and curious. You’ll try to look more into it.”
The Superior fossil hunters have given much of their trove to others. Tim Johnson, a teacher at Northern Lights Elementary School, has cupboards full of their finds. Their interest in fossils led the teacher to do some beachcombing of his own. He’s found fossils at the mouth of the Brule River and other areas.
Bartell’s newest finds have been donated to the museum.
“It’s awesome he wants kids to have them,” Halbakken said.
Pearce and Bartell, 63, have taken their fossils on the road over the past two years, setting up presentations at schools, the library and now the museum. They met up with Halbakken to show their finds to residents at the Lighthouse of Superior, an assisted living facility, Thursday.
Looking for fossils is something nearly anyone can do, Bartell said. He’s been on the lookout for prehistoric finds since he was a teenager. Just keep your eye out for the right kind of stones along the shore and be patient, he said. It takes the same kind of patience needed for deer hunting.
“You gotta’ be optimistic,” he said.
The shore isn’t the only place to find fossils.
James Pointer, an interpretive supervisor with Soudan Underground Mine State Park in Minnesota, was on hand for Wednesday’s fossil day event. Although the Soudan Mine doesn’t have any fossils lying around, visitors to nearby Hill Annex Mine State Park can sift through tailings piles for fossils of shells and shark teeth, Pointer said.
And, of course, there will be plenty of fossils on hand next year during the fourth annual National Fossil Day celebration at the Duluth Children’s Museum.