“What is the mastodon matrix?” you ask with unrestrained inquisitiveness. “That sounds exciting!”
Well, let me tell you! ------ Basically, it’s a bunch of dirt.
I know that was very anticlimactic. However, it is dirt that is 10,000 to 15,000 years old, gathered from an area immediately adjacent to mastodon remains…and we have 4 kilos (~8.8 lbs) of the stuff.
Our 5th- and 6th-grade scientists get to use it to learn about “science inquiry” – how and why we do science. We will be searching through the matrix (the dirt) as part of an ongoing long-term research project to better understand Ice Age ecosystems being conducted by the Paleontological Research Institute (PRI) in Ithaca, New York. PRI provides the materials and the protocols, BMS provides the enthusiastic curiosity and interest to actually sift through dirt looking for long-dead things and together we all expand our levels of understanding.
I am currently reviewing the protocols outlined by PRI and plan to have the students begin the research next week. As it stands, this project will likely occupy 3 class periods for each group. That means we will be working through the processes and materials each day during 3rd and 4th periods from next Wednesday (12 Oct) through the following Thursday (20 Oct).
In this project we will be working with each of the DODEA STEM initiatives. We will be doing real-world scientific research, using technology to report our results and learn extra information, using our engineering design skills for creating and using specific lab equipment, and developing our math skills by sorting, counting, measuring, and tabulating data.
You are more than welcome to come down at any time to see what we are doing (or help in some way), if you are interested. (I do request that no younger children come. I simply don’t have the means to keep my students on track with added distractions and all of the 5th and 6th graders will be taught how to handle this material in ways that minimize breakage and loss.) Please also keep in mind that I will limit the actual paleontological work to my 5th and 6th grade scientists. That will keep them focused on their tasks and help me keep things in order. We are all taking this very serious because PRI is counting on us to be accurate with our data collection, gentle with the materials, and mindful of the protocols that they have set in place – plus, we are required to send everything back to them when we are done.
So, if you are interested in watching or helping us search for real fossils from a real paleontological excavation, please let me know – or just pop on in to Bobcat Labs (BMS Room 514) during 3rd and 4th periods next week.