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 East Tennessee State University Museum of Natural History!

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 12 to adult.  Ages 12-16 must be accompanied by a paying adult, age 18+

Each participant will receive:

  • Name badge/lanyard
  • T-shirt with The Big Dig Logo
  • Hands On! Discovery Center/Gray Fossil Site Travel Tumbler  
  • Lunch

Participants will get to:

  • Excavate on the site  like the field crew, documenting fossil  finds and gathering sediment (weather permitting)
  • Screenwash the gathered sediment, to separate out the smallest plant and animal fossils
  • Use microscopes to pick through collected sediment searching for microfossils
  • Clean and consolidate any fossils that are found, documenting the process for each one
  • Turn over the processed fossils to the lab to be finished and cataloged in the museum collections
  • A behind-the-scenes tour will also be part of the experience as well as other activities, time permitting.

The area being excavated will include sediment that was collected from under the museum during building construction.  For over a decade, the crew has been finding fossils from this site including tapir, elephant, rhino, and panda.

Dates and Times:

  • July 6, 2019
  • July 20, 2019
  • August 10, 2019
  • August 24, 2019
  • September 7, 2019
  • September 21, 2019

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

Cost:

$125, per person

Space is 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 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).
  • 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.

Please select your date of choice to complete your registration.

Bring a copy of the email confirmation (printed or digital) with you on the day of the event, along with the signed waiver form, included in your confirmation email.

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