Rural Missouri - June 2019 - 18

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| OUTDOORS

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Tessa Hartley shows St. James Elementary School students the dinosaur bone she helped excavate in the Montana badlands as part of Adventure 360's Paleo X program.

St. James students unearth fossils, career opportunities
by Zach Smith | zsmith@ruralmissouri.coop

A

Doing so proved a long but rewarding process. Adventure
360 digs are located about one hour outside Jordan, Montana.
The ancient floodplain, once part of the vast Western Interior
Seaway, is rich with fossils but belongs to the Bureau of
Land Management, making any finds the property of the
government. Ron started working with government entities and scientists at the university repositories where
James
most fossils go for study after they are unearthed.
Together they were able to work out an arrangement
where bones that would otherwise remain boxed in a
storage room for decades now finally see the light of
day and serve an educational purpose. Over the years,
Ron has created additional programs for families and adults to join in
on the adventure and fun.
Aside from excavating the fossils, Ron and the Paleo X students
bring their finds to schools so students can pass on their experiences
to classmates and answer questions. Wyatt has wanted to be an paleontologist since he was a child and nothing about the experience of
finding a triceratops' upper leg bone last summer has changed his
mind. As he diligently works at uncasing his find from the protective
plaster, he fields questions from St. James Elementary students, who
stand mouths agape and eyes alight at the
relic before them.
"It's so cool hearing some of these kids
saying, 'I want to be a paleontologist,' "
Wyatt says. "I'm like, 'Yes - keep that
dream!' "
As Wyatt and Tessa can attest, those
childhood dreams sometimes come true.
An incoming high school senior with an
eye on studying geology and micropaleontology, Tessa already has at least one
college option on the table from Emporia
State University in Kansas.
"Career preparedness is a big buzzword
in education, so it's nice to see that happening here," Ron adds. "The important
thing is to get them to think and ask questions. Even if they don't go into science,
that's a cross-learning process you're
going to use in any field, no matter what
you do."

t first, nothing stood out about the small
white rock peeking above the soil of the Montana badlands. The group of student-scientists
had passed it by earlier in the week, but something about the texture of the rock looked different
St.
on their fifth day in the field. They started digging on
a whim and six hours later had uncovered the intact
fossil of a creature more than 65 million years old.
For St. James High School students Tessa Hartley and
Wyatt Cutsinger, the moment fulfilled childhood dreams
and opened the door to potential career paths.
"We thought it was sandstone, because that's normally what we
find sticking out of the ground," Tessa says, recalling the two days
it took to unearth and plaster jacket the nearly 4-foot scapula.
"That feeling of, 'I helped find this,' it's the coolest thing in the
world."
That kind of real-world experience is why Tessa and Wyatt are
making their third trip to the Montana badlands in as many summers with St. James science and drama teacher A.J. Prawitz. The
trip is part of the Paleo X program
offered by the Fenton-based nonprofit
company Adventure 360. Although
field paleontology is a major focus of
the weeklong excursion, students also
learn about geology, surveying and
astronomy and work alongside university professors and graduate students.
"Some of the kids like science but they
don't know what to do, and they forget that stuff like this is science," A.J.
says. "They meet real-life professionals,
and they get to use different skills that
they learn in the classroom but use a
lot more out in the field. Overall, it's a
great experience to get out and do."
A former director of earth sciences
for the Saint Louis Science Center and
a St. James High School alumnus, Ron
Giesler started Adventure 360 with
one goal: find a way to give burgeoning science students exposure to the
professional work environment on real
paleontological digs. "When you go to a
photo courtesy Adventure 360
museum, they'll put the fossil behind a
piece of glass, and my whole goal was to St. James High School student Wyatt Cutsinger was all smiles last
knock that glass down," Ron adds.
summer after uncovering a triceratops' leg bone in Montana.

RURAL MISSOURI | JUNE 2019

For more information on Paleo X and other
programs at Adventure 360, visit www.
adventure-360.com, email Ron Giesler at
adventure3sixty@yahoo.com or call 314402-3612.


http://www.adventure-360.com

Rural Missouri - June 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - June 2019

Contents
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Intro
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Contents
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - 4
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - 5
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - 6
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - 7
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - 8
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Rural Missouri - June 2019 - 41
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - 42
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Cover4
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