Joel Rademeyer, 6th grade Integrated Science teacher at , spent 7 days this past summer in a small town named Jordan, Montana, to learn more about archeology and paleontology. Rademeyer had been awarded an all-expense paid fellowship grant through the Saint Louis Science Center's paleontology field program Paleotrek.
Spending a week in mid June, 2011, Rademeyer gained hands-on field experience with professional paleontologists, geologists and archaeologists, including Dr. David Burnham from the University of Kansas.
The program also consisted of interactive presentations on topics relevant to the curriculum; hands-on classroom-ready activities and classroom resources where applicable.
With a Bachelor's degree in Biology and Master's degree in Education, Rademeyer wanted to expand his scientific knowledge that he could bring to the classroom. Last year, he had received his first Science Center Fellowship Grant that brought him to Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park.
"My trip to Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Park allowed me to translate my own interest and passion for ecology into student interest during an ecology unit. During this unit, I observed increased participation and on-task time. Students were engaged in inquiry-based learning and deeper levels of critical thinking," Rademeyer said.
Having no previous experience with archeology and paleontology, he was involved in excavating hundreds of fossilized bones at Hell Creek Formation and discovered a rib bone from a triceratops and personally excavated it.
Two intact T-Rex teeth were also found, which one was associated with the jaw bone discovered by the team in 2010.
The rib bone is currently at the paleontology lab at the Saint Louis Science Center being put back together by volunteers and trained employees. Energized by the trip awarded in 2010, Rademeyer reapplied for this Paleotrek 2011 grant in hopes to use the knowledge and experience from this trip in a much more hands-on approach with his students.
"Students in the Parkway School District attend a week-long Outdoor School held at Camp Lakewood (YMCA of the Ozarks) during their sixth grade year. During the five days students are engaged in numerous experiential learning activities which teach them about the natural environment, engages them in cooperative and interpersonal skills, and teach them a variety of outdoor skills. The unit that I am proposing to develop would be an archeology/paleontology unit. During this activity, students would apply the methods used by archaeologists and scientists in locating artifacts and collecting data. They would be learning the everyday skills used by these professionals in the field," Rademeyer explained.
Over 100 students benefitted from this experience in October, lead by Rademeyer's wife Marcy, who is a 6th grade Communication Arts teacher for Parkway Central Middle. Marcy had partnered with her husband and had also been awarded a Science Center Fellowship Grant for the Mt. Rainier/Mt. St. Helens trip. She was the first to use the skills learned from the grant in her school's Outdoor Camp experience.
Tweeked for Rademeyer's trip in early November with approximately 100 students from South Middle, his students excavated artifacts and fossils from Missouri that had been purposefully planted for the Outdoor School experience. Artifacts had been purchased from Cherokee Street or donated by retired Parkway teachers, who are often volunteers throughout the year at Outdoor School.
The students successfully excavated an old drill bit, a lead bullet from the Civil War era, arrow heads, brass buttons, 30 to 50 year old rifle shells and a 100 year old glass bottle. An unexpected surprise, some of these items were uncovered from the natural resources and had not been intentionally planted.
For this school year, the field science unit replaced the caving unit due to health concerns with bat encounters.
However, Rademeyer is hopeful that even if the caving unit is continued in the 2012-13 school year, future South Middle students will continue to participate in the field science unit.
"If other teachers become interested in the archelogy/paleontology actvitity, it could potentially reach thousands of students a year and become a regular part of Outdoor School," he added.