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Monday, September 9, 2013

Who Likes to Dig for Fossils?

At one of my son's soccer games, I was talking with a fellow ROCmomma about how our kids love dinosaurs. She asked if I had ever taken them to Penn Dixie Dig Site because you can take home the fossils you find.

We HAD TO go. What are you doing next weekend? Because you HAVE TO GO, too.

There are no dinosaur fossils at the Penn Dixie Paleontological and Outdoor Education Center, but you will find tons of marine fossils from 380 million years ago. That's older than any dinosaur!

During the one-hour ride to Penn Dixie, I was a little nervous that the boys might not find any fossils. I was worried that they might be disappointed, especially since I had hyped it up so much and we were driving so far. Rest assured, you can't help but find fossils there.

We found our first one within the first thirty seconds at the dig site:
Coral from the Devonian Era
(380 million years old)
And we filled our buckets in no time!
When you arrive at Penn Dixie, the parking is free and there are some port-a-potties - including a handicap accessible one - in the parking lot. Unfortunately, there are no diaper-changing facilities available.

There is a park-shelter-type entryway where staff are available to accept your admission fee and help you get started. You will receive a fossil identification card to help you figure out what types of fossils you've found. One of the guides even walked out to the dig area with us and showed us what we would be looking for at the site. She was extremely patient and answered all of my boys' questions in a way they could understand. (I learned a lot, too!)

We brought our own buckets and some small gardening shovels, but we actually didn't need to dig at all. It's just a matter of turning over the rocks to look for cone-shaped coral, black flecks of trilobites, the swirl of a gastropod (snail), ridges of a crinoid (sea lily), or the shell-shapes of pelecypods (clams) or brachiopods (lamp shells). Most of the shale is so soft, you can even break some of the rocks with your fingers to remove the fossils.
"I found one!"
"Look at this one!"
More fossils, more fossils,
and more fossils.
There are paved trails around the Penn Dixie site, so it is stroller-friendly as well as wagon-friendly. You'll find plenty of fossils on either side of the paved trails. If you're not tethered by a stroller, little explorers will have a great time wandering off the trails and into the great big piles of rocks at the dig site.

Future paleontologists will be fine with a bucket and gardening shovel. However, there were some serious fossil-lovers there with goggles, mallets, and chisels getting into some of the bigger shale pieces.

Covered picnic tables are available, if you bring lunch or a snack. While there are no vending options available on site, you'll find plenty of restaurants in the area after you leave Penn Dixie.

The best part of it all? You get to bring home all of the fossils you can carry!

When we got home, my six-year-old insisted he had to start working on the rocks. We set up a sturdy table in our sunroom, and he found his goggles and wooden hammer from his tool set.
Future paleontologist at work.
He has been having fun breaking the fossils out of the rocks. Then they go into a bucket of water to be washed with an old toothbrush. Once the fossils dry, we paint them with a solution of half Elmer's glue and half water to preserve them. We have been busy trying to pick out the best fossils to mount on the identification card in time for show and tell at school. He is really excited about that.

Penn Dixie is open during weekends May through October, and seven days a week during mid-June through Labor Day. They also host many special events throughout the year; check out their web site for upcoming events. Driving directions may be found on their web site; if using a GPS device, the address is 4050 North Street, Blasdell, NY 14219.

Please Post a Comment below and let us know about your fossil findings! As always, thanks for reading.
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