The Big Dig

The Big Dig is a one-of-a-kind, roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, paleontology experience offered by Hands On! Discovery Center and the Gray Fossil Site & Museum!

Participants will have the opportunity to work alongside paleontologists and follow the process from beginning to end, from searching for fossils in the field to curating them in the museum collection. 

For ages 16 to adult.  Attendees under 18 must be accompanied by a paying adult.

Each participant will receive:

  • T-shirt with The Big Dig Logo
  • Lunch (Please note lunch may include allergens such as gluten, wheat, and dairy.)

Participants will get to:

  • Excavate in the Rhino Pit, alongside the field crew, documenting fossil  finds, bagging sediment and specimens, and simple surveying (weather permitting)
  • Screenwash some of the gathered sediment, to separate out the smallest plant and animal fossils 
  • Learn about and see ongoing projects in the Prep Lab
  • Work on fossil preparation including cleaning and fossil ID
  • Watch a picking demo and look at specimens under a microscope
  • Tour the collections room and learn about the long-term preservation

Previous specimens found in the Rhino Pit include: two complete rhino skeletons and fragments from two others, tapir, slider turtle, frog, snake, alligator, rodents, as well as insects and plant seeds.

Dates and Times:

10:00 am – 4:30 pm
Please arrive 5-10 minutes early to allow time for check-in at the front desk.

  • June 11
  • June 25
  • July 9
  • July 23
  • August 13
  • August 27
  • September 10
  • September 24


$125, per person

Space is very limited. Reservations are required two weeks in advance.

Things to Know:

  • All supplies and tools will be provided.
  • Please bring: sunscreen, insect repellant, a refillable water bottle, hat (Gray Fossil Site hats may be purchased for a discount in the gift shop).
  • Wear old closed-toed shoes or boots and clothes that can get dirty (peroxide and other chemicals may be used) and are appropriate for the weather (may be muddy or dusty).
  • Please be aware that you will be outdoors and may be in the sun and/or heat and exposed to common outdoor allergens for several hours.
  • All fossils and fossil fragments MUST remain on site.
  • Every specimen receives a tag and when those tags reach milestones you will be notified!  Examples of notifications could be when specimens are received by collections, when it is assigned a specimen number, or if it is included in a publication.

For more information or help with registration, please email reservations@visithandson.org.