"I love being a Paleontologist!" said Cole Morton, grandson of Elton and Wendy Beougher, Hays. The Beougher family was visiting the new Fossil Dig Pit attraction opened recently at Fort Hays State University's Sternberg Museum of Natural History.
"This is their favorite place to go," said Wendy Beougher. "As soon as they get into town, they want to come. The Sternberg is a great place to bring kids."
In this exhibit, children can dig in sand to find fossils such as the Pliosaur from the Kansas chalk fields. They can try to identify creatures who lived in the warm seas that covered Kansas during the age of dinosaurs. Different fossils are put in periodically.
Brian Bartels, museum educator, showed the children who were digging in the pit on one recent Saturday a model of the Pliosaur they were uncovering.
Opening April 1, a Pliosaur fossil cast will take the place of the mammoth in the front entrance of the museum. The exhibit will be called "The Sea Monster." The mammoth will be moved to the second floor to join other fossils and fossil casts.
"This is a great learning opportunity and a great hands-on tool for Ian to learn about dinosaurs," said Jan Schmidt, mother of Ian Schmidt who was playing in the pit. "When we leave, he always wants to go dig for fossils at home."
The Dig Pit, constructed at the Sternberg Museum in response to demand, is very popular based on successful traveling dig pits the Museum has had. The Museum staff wanted a permanent one. It was a project of the museum exhibits staff, Greg Walters, exhibits director, and Beatrice Bauer, exhibits preparator.
"The Dig Pit is open whenever the museum is open. This is an exhibit in itself, open to the public and very interactive," said Mark Kellerman, director of public relations.
"This exhibit is meant to make kids feel like they were George Sternberg in a tent uncovering fossils," said Morgan Lampe, a public relations intern.
The museum provides many other programs, exhibits and collections for visitors. For more information, visit www.sternberg.fhsu.edu or call 785-628-5298. The museum is open Sunday 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.