The APS was thrilled to host two elementary schools in October and November from North Alabama to learn about the rich fossil record in Alabama. Each field trip was an incredible opportunity to hunt for fossils at the Steven C. Minkin Paleozoic Footprint Site. There are an extremely few locations across the state that are available for large groups to have such an experience due to land ownership or simply the size of exposures. A partnership between the APS (controls access and ensures that significant specimens are donated/available for research) and the State of Alabama (turns the site regularly to prevent vegetation overgrowth and to renew fossil bearing material) maintains this critical location for groups to gain a hands-on understanding of the fossil record. This is truly an incredible resource for science education and research for the entire state and literally the world. In the picture above, APS member Carl, explains to the parents and Fourth-graders the geographic context of the site 310 million years ago, when the plants and creatures evidenced here were located south of the Equator. This 20 minute presentation, complete with incredible fossil specimens from the site, provides an outstanding learning opportunity prior to the fossil hunt.
Both days were blessed with fine fall weather allowing for good collecting conditions. We had several APS members available to help the groups find and identify fossils. While it has been some time since the site has been turned and both vegetation and material is making it very challenging to find fossils, both groups successfully found many plant fossils including seed ferns and stems (e.g. calamites) and some trace fossils. A few tracks and trackways are found below and include a tetrapod trackway (Attenosaurus) found by a student, an insect trackway (Stiaria), and a horseshoe crab trackway (Kouphichnium).
It is always a toss-up whether the school kids, their parents, or the APS members that come out get more from these trips!