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Oklahoma kids to search for dinosaur fossils this summer

KENTON, Okla. – Children from two Oklahoma group homes will have the opportunity to see where dinosaurs once roamed across the state.

Six boys from the Cedar Canyon program and six girls from the Mustang Treatment Center will head to the Panhandle this summer to visit a paleontological site near Black Mesa.

Each group will spend a couple of days looking for fossils.

“It was a ton of fun,” said Anne Weil, an associate professor of anatomy and cell biology at the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa, of last year’s outing. “We found several fossils in the site and excavated part of a giant neck vertebrae. Then we went on a hike and turned over rocks and found a ton of horned toads and scorpions and all kinds of little things like that. We learned some things about the rocks, too.”

Remains of the dinosaurs that lived more than 150 million years ago in the late Jurassic Period are in a layer of rock known as the Morrison Formation.

“This is an outstanding and excellent opportunity for these young people to observe and explore a paleontological site,” said Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs Executive Director Steven Buck. “They will also be able to see the wonders of nature in a part of our state that is outside their view of the world so far in their lives, and hopefully realize that their future potential is unlimited, just like the wide-open vista of the Panhandle. I appreciate Cedar Canyon and Mustang Treatment Center for agreeing to allow their residents to experience this excursion, and certainly the willingness of Anne Weil and the Sam Noble Museum to help with this educational opportunity.”

Weil says that while many of the questions she gets come from the film ‘Jurassic Park,’ interest in dinosaurs can lead to deeper discussions about science.

“Paleontology is a great way to start thinking about any of the sciences,” she said. “The animals themselves are very charismatic, you know, and everybody wants to see the giant carnivores. But when you start really handling the bones, and saying, ‘What is this part? How is this animal put together?’ – that’s going to lead you into the anatomical sciences. For instance, someone could become a pre-med (student) and go to medical school along that route. If you’re looking at it and going, ‘Wow, what are these shrimp doing in a site with these dinosaurs, and where are the baby dinosaurs? They should be here, and why are there so many turtles?’ They are sort of thinking like an ecologist, and it could lead into wildlife management or a career like that.”

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