- Category: Outdoor Activities
- Published Date
- Written by Bryan
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Exploring the outdoors, splashing around in water, digging in mud, and finding artifacts from ancient days. In other words, having fun while getting dirty and pretending to be Indiana Jones. What more could a family want in a caper?
This particular family activity was introduced to us by another family in our scout organization. The father is an enthusiast of geology and shared his excitement about taking his sons to a local stream and finding dinosaur bones and shark teeth. I was immediately interested. After overcoming my preconceptions about archaeology and fossils being collected by old professors in the desert, my excitement grew even more.
Options for local dig sites
I believe that this activity can be done in any region. A family may have to drive a small distance to get to a decent site but it should be close enough to be a day trip. The fossil findings may vary in different areas; however, the concept of dredging items from a stream or digging in some dirt in a field will be similar. Obviously doing a Google search on fossil hunting in your area is the best place to start. You may even luck out and find some sort of geology club in your area. Do your search on "rock mineral fossil clubs or societies". Another excellent place to find help locating good fossil sites is your local nature centers attached to state parks, state forests, national parks, or national forests. Here is the American Geosciences Institute's organization finder.
Preparing for the Family Fossil Hunt
Once you have selected a site and done your research on what to look for at the site, you can start to prepare.
Tools of the Trade
You only need a couple items to get started. If you want to keep it simple and not make a large investment of time, simply get a pasta strainer and large metal serving spoon from your local dollar store. If you want to get more sophisticated, you can build a fossil screen box and get a small gardening trowel. Here are some designs for making a screen:
- How to build a Fossil Screen by Instructables.com
- Here is a cool sifter using a wire drawer by Black River Fossils
- Design and diagram by Florida Fossil Hunters
Other Helpful Items to Prepare
This is an outdoor activity and a family should prepare accordingly. Here are some additional items to consider:
- Sandals or cloth tennis shoes that can get ruined by dirt or muddy water.
- Knee pads or small folding chair
- Bug spray
- Hat with wide brim
- Specimen containers or zip-top baggies for all those awesome fossils.
At the Dig Site
Safety, Safety, Safety
Where ever you may be working there is a strong possibility that there will be broken glass and sharp metal pieces. Take the necessary precautions for feet and hands to be safe.
If someone does get cut be certain that their tetanus shots are updated.
Be aware of wildlife. Depending on your area there may be water snakes or other lurking creatures. To be honest these should not concern you that much since most animals are scared of humans and will avoid us where they hear or smell us.
Use sunscreen. When spending the day outside you will get a sunburn without even realizing it.
Use bug spray. The most deadly animal in the world is the mosquito.
Things to think about while digging
Do no harm. Avoid doing any damage to the environment and landscape. Leave the site better than you found it.
Have fun. Do not lose sight of this goal for every Family Caper!
Pay attention. I have gotten so entranced in the sifting process and finding shark tooth specimens that I was not paying attention to others. Stay constantly alert, especially with young children near water.
Additional Considerations for a Family Fossil Hunt
Participate in National Fossil Day.
Share your enthusiasm. We would never have thought of this awesome family activity if our friend had not shared his excitement.