- Pet-Friendly (keep dogs on leash at all times)
- Terrain: Not challenging
This is the first of a series I will be doing this summer on fun activities for geeky kids and their parents. While some of what I will highlight will be specific to our area of Southern Ohio, you can readily find similar things local to you with a little google searching. Or you could travel here.
The first thing we decided to do was to go beachcombing. You read that right – looking for seashells in Ohio, a landlocked state. Ohio is also one of the best places in the US to find fossils! During the Ordovician Period Ohio was covered with a warm, shallow sea, and the remnants of that time are now easily found locked in soft stone at the surface of the land. My First Reader tells me that when he was a child he could easily sit in the creek and pick up interesting fossils, but many years of hunting have thinned them out.
We went to the Caesar Creek Recreation area, got a free permit from the Visitor’s Center there, and followed the rules of collecting. You cannot use tools to dig, break large rocks up, and may only carry away stones the size of the palm of your hand. We went a little further, telling the kids they could only collect a few nice ones, to leave the rest for other visitors to enjoy. Respect for the area and others is the keyword of the day whenever you are collecting. In my case, we took pictures to save memories without damaging the land.
Things to bring:
- A wide-brimmed hat (we didn’t have them, but it would have been nice)
- water bottle
- Hiking boots (the loose rocks are hard to navigate at times)
If you see a theme there, it’s because there was no shade and it was a hot, sunny day like so many are during an Ohio summer. Be prepared!
Things to talk about:
- Look at how similar the seashells are to what we would expect to find on a beach today. Gastropods, brachiopods, and molluscs haven’t changed much.
- Keep an eye out for trilobites in rolled position. If you can, find a pillbug at home (they like cool, moist earth under rocks and logs) and talk about the similarities between the fossils and the living creatures. We didn’t find a trilobite on this trip but will keep looking.
- They aren’t shark teeth! My kids were all excited about finding ‘teeth’ and the Little Man wanted to find a skull in the worst way, but you won’t find one here. The ‘teeth’ are horn corals.
- Paleontology is hard, hot, dirty work. The geeky kid will have a special appreciation for those amazing bones in the museum after this experience digging up his own.
I highly recommend hitting your friendly local library before you do this expedition for a book on fossil identification. It’s a lot of fun to figure out just what you found when you get your treasures home.