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Magnet school first-graders take hands-on approach to studying dinosaurs

Aidan Hartman squatted near the 152 million-year-old fossil and studied it with a critical eye.

The only other dinosaur bones he had seen before Monday were in a museum and were well- scrubbed, connected and intact. But this piece, excavated by a group of Northglenn High School educators just a few months ago, held a special fascination for the 7-year-old.

“It confused me,” said Aidan. “I’ve always wondered what a dinosaur would feel like. And this is nothing I’ve seen before.”

Not surprisingly, Aidan came away with another revelation.

“I think it would really be cool to be a paleontologist when I grow up,” he said.

It was then that teacher Kent Hups realized he had achieved his goal.

“Science is all about getting teachers excited and especially getting kids excited,” Hups said. “Maybe we’ve done that here.”

Aidan is among 50 first-graders at Adams 12 Five Star Schools’ Magnet Lab STEM School who will now study the 400-pound sauropod fossil, write about it and prepare the piece for display at the Cañon City Dinosaur Depot Museum.

It’s all part of the mission of the school, the first K-8 STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) magnet school in Colorado, said principal Penny Eucker.

“They are taking notes, writing about what they find and applying their knowledge of fossils and infusing technology into what they are doing,” Eucker said.

The school will keep the bones for about two years, Hups said. The sauropod was a long- necked plant-eater who was about 60 to 70 feet long and roamed the area that is now Colorado and Wyoming.

Hups and the group from Northglenn High excavated the bones in March from the Hups/Lowell Quarry 25 miles south of Grand Junction. Hups works in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management and its regional paleontologist Harley Armstrong at the excavation site.

Hups appeared on a panel at STEM School and became convinced it was an ideal place to study the fossil.

“I don’t think a group of kids this young had ever worked on something like this, so I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity,” he said.

The bones appear to be from a sauropod’s vertebrae and, although old, they are pretty sturdy and can hold up well to young, prying hands, Hups said.

This type of opportunity to work on actual dinosaur bones would have stunned Hups when he was the age of the STEM students.

“I just would have wet my pants,” he said.

By Monte Whaley

Photo credit John Leyba, The Denver Post

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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