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Digging up bones: Elementary school students sort dirt, rocks for lessons on fossils, geosciences


By Mike Dawson —

UNIVERSITY PARK — Using pairs of tweezers, fifth-graders from Houserville Elementary School picked through dirt and rocks to find fossils from 15,000-year-old animals that paleontologists at Penn State had unearthed from a cave.

“Is that a tooth?” said one student Thursday, showing a tiny find to a classmate, during Shake, Rattle and Rocks, an event that brings State College Area fifth-graders onto Penn State’s campus for a hands-on look at earth science.

“Bones love to hide underneath rocks,” said Russ Graham, a paleontologist at Penn State, as he had the youngsters, sitting at desks inside a classroom, combing through samples that his research team gathered from the Black Hills region of South Dakota.

Shake, Rattle and Rocks started Wednesday and continues through Friday. In all, more than 500 fifth-graders in the district will have had a hand in checking out ice cores to research climate, growing microbes, and seeing how rocks behave during earthquakes.

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