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Digging for Dinosaurs - You will be WOWed.

One of the things that makes The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis the biggest and best in the world is its ability to extend learning beyond the walls of 3000 N. Meridian Street. In fact, every summer, museum staff and paleontologists escape the Dinosphere dome and travel all the way to the Badlands of South Dakota where they dig for real dinosaur bones! And the best part? You can do it too. That’s right, families, teachers and adults are all invited to register for single or multiple days of dino digging fun. And yes, we find stuff. Lots of stuff.


For example…

Last summer we found over 200 65 million year old specimen including Nano-tyranous teeth, femora from school bus sized Edmontosaurus annectens (aka Duckbill Dinosaur), ribs, mandible pieces and so much more! 


Check out This Week’s WOW to see what a day at the dig site looks like and learn the answer to the question Just what happens to all those fossils once they’ve been discovered and can I use mine as a paper weight?



To learn more or to register for this summer’s dig, click here.

Families Go Green at The Children's Museum!

Family Rain BarrelsRain barrels.  You've probably heard of them and maybe even seen them around.  If you've looked into buying one you may have also winced at the price.  $100, $125, $150...  Yikes.  Do you want to know a secret?  You don't have to pay that much if you make your own.  And also?  Making your own is really really easy.  

April 22 is Earth Day and to kick the week off right, twenty families joined us for our second annual Rain Barrels to Rain Gardens workshop this past Saturday.  During morning and afternoon sessions, families worked together to assemble 55-gallon barrels to take home and use for their home gardens and lawns. Together they discovered just how easy and economical rain barrels can be.  $45 covered the price of the barrels and supplies and by the end of the session they were armed with the how-to's of rain barrel installs and were excited to take them home and test them out.    

Saturday's fun didn't stop at barrels.  Families participated in interactive water cycle games, made lettuce container gardens and discovered just how much water we use on average when we water our lawns (150 gallons), brush our teeth (2 gallons) or take a shower (25-40 gallons).  Families also explored the ins and outs of some of the Museum's green initiatives.  Did you know that the Museum has its own rain garden, roof top garden and 600-gallon rain barrel on site?  All are used to help conserve water and energy!  

If you're looking for Earth Day things to do in Indianapolis visit The Children's Museum of Indianapolis this Saturday, April 23, for our Earth Day Celebration Event!  You will discover just how much water you use at home,  make biodregradable newspaper seed pots, see rain barrel making demonstrations, and much more.  You can also learn how fun and easy it is to make your own barrel and go green at home. We hope to see you then!

Dinosaurs Just Got a Whole Lot Cooler

It's all hands on deck at our Dinosaur dig site in Faith South Dakota!Every summer The Children's Museum of Indianapolis takes family learning to a whole new level and ventures out to the Badlands of South Dakota in pursuit of 65 million year old dinosaur fossils.  True to the museum's mission of creating extraordinary learning opportunities for children and families, we make sure that it's not just the professionals that get to have all the fun—you can go on this museum adventure too!  That's right, whether you're a child who roars or a grown up who still gets geeked at the sight of a dinosaur skeleton (or you're someone who has a child or grown up that does), a day or 2 at a real working dig site might be the perfect family vacation idea for you.

Your adventure will start in Faith, SD, population 489.  At 8 a.m. you will jump into Moby, the great white van, and then go off-roading to the Ruth Mason Quarry where you will be greeted and trained by our fearless leaders Dallas and William. You'll get down and dirty, utilizing the tools of the trade—clam shuckers and exactos—and learn how to tell the difference between iron concretions and 65 million year old fossils.  Trust me, it's not always easy but you'll be a pro by the end of the day. You will also learn the very cool art of mapping your finds. Last year we collected 191 fossils and William can tell you exactly where and how each one was found, thanks to all of the excellent maps that were created by our diggers. 

When your digging days are over, never fear because the learning and adventure don't have to end.  Once the fossils have made the journey back to the museum, families can arrange times with the Paleo Lab to come in and work on their fossils.  You can actually go behind the Paleo Lab window where all the cool stuff happens and learn how to clean and prepare your finds.  You'll get to wear the coats and goggles and everything!

Our 2011 Dig dates are July 1–8 and families with little ones 8 and older can register for 1 or 2 days.  Visit here for more information on one of the coolest opportunities ever.

We're Not the Only Experts...

By Eric Olson, Power of Children and Take Me There: Egypt Manager, and Nicole Schoville, Family & Neighborhood Programs Coordinator

There have probably been times when you have walked through an exhibit at The Children’s Museum and said “I didn’t know that."  But have you ever wondered "How did they know that?"   After all, TCM presents exhibits on all kinds of subjects, ranging from dinosaurs to dollhouses, and even with designers, carpenters, researchers, educators,  and interpreters working on all of them, the sheer number of exhibits that come through the museum amounts to a lot of information for one team to master.  So, where do we get all the facts when a new exhibit is on the way? Well, we go to the experts!

Bucky Derflinger, namesake of Bucky the Teenage T. rex, works with families in The Children's Museum Paleo Lab.

When the idea for a new exhibit is chosen, TCM contacts a team of advisors, and these advisors are the real experts. For example, in our current Polar Bears to Penguins exhibit, we worked closely with J.J. L’Heureux, who has spent years studying and photographing penguins in their natural habitat, and Tammy Root, who cares for the penguins living at The Indianapolis Zoo. Dinosphere was developedwith helpfrom Bucky Derflinger, who discovered an actual T-Rex fossil on his own ranch!

Jeanne White-Ginder, mother of Ryan White, meets with museum staff and visitors regularly

Authentic Arabic music was provided for Take Me There Egypt by Salaam, a wonderful band that plays all across America and beyond. And for The Power of Children we went directly to the source and spoke to the very people whose stories we tell: Ruby Bridges and Jeanne White-Ginder, mother of Ryan White. In all of these cases, the advisors shared with us their knowledge, their experience, and their memories so that the TCM staff could create the exhibits and programs for over a million visitors to enjoy every year!

What makes our dealings with these experts truly extraordinary is that their involvement doesn’t stop once an exhibit opens.  At that point, our advisors often go beyond talking to us and start talking to YOU! Each of the folks listed above has made it a point to return to The Children’s Museum on multiple occasions, to share their expertise directly with children and families.  The settings range from informal appearances in the galleries and at Public Events, to more intimate registered programs for the whole family and educators.  These visits provide an opportunity for more in-depth experiences than what you might ordinarily find at a museum, both through information and the “personal touch” that an exhibit simply cannot provide on its own.

Dena El Saffar of the Middle Eastern music ensemble Salaam, teaches children the art of Arabic drumming during a Family Program last fall.

This week’s Fall Break alone will see visits from Jeanne-White Ginder, Bucky Derflinger, and Salaam, as The Children’s Museum shows where it is the expert – providing extraordinary learning experiences for children and families every day. So always make it a point to ask what exciting guest might be coming to the museum on your next visit – you never know who you might meet!

We Dug It!

By Nicole Schoville, Family & Neighborhood Programs Coordinator

Did you know that every summer The Children's Museum of Indianapolis takes families and teachers on Dinosaur Digs in Faith, South Dakota?  Days are spent digging for 65 million year-old dinosaur bones while under the supervision of Museum Paleontologists.  This summer we were out there with about 100 folks, spread out over 2 weeks, locating, mapping, and excavating fossils.

It took a while, but we have officially counted up all of our prehistoric  finds and the grand total is ...


All from the Late Cretaceous period (65 million years ago), many of the fossils that we find come from Edmontosaurus annectens, otherwise known as the ‘Duckbill’.  Families and teachers worked to unearth 5 fibulae and 3 tibia, along with quite a few skull elements, ribs and vertebrae.  The 'Biggest Find'  award goes to a one meter long fibula pictured here:

Families and teachers worked tirelessly for 2 weeks to unearth this 2 foot tibia and meter long fibula!

William (Children's Museum Paleontologist) was especially geeked - er, excited - about our non-Edmontosaurus material that was collected, like gar fish and crocodile.  Some other findings that were especially cool for the Paleo Guys were:

3 Nanotyrannus teeth

possible Troodon bone

A prehistoric snail

You may be asking yourself Why are these non-Edmontosaurus finds cool? Well, we went straight to the source and here is what Dallas (Children's Museum Paleontologist) had to say:

The non-Edmontosaur material at the dig site is always very significant.   It tells us much more of the environment that these animals lived in.  These associated materials provide clues about the climate & biodviersity of the Late Cretaceous.

You also might be wondering What happens to the fossils that are found at the site?

Most fossils found while surface collecting may be kept by digging participants, however, fossils excavated at the dig site become property of The Children's Museum; they will be taken to the museum's Paleo Prep Lab. Dig participants are helping the museum excavate fossils that will be prepared in the lab in Dinosphere. Diggers may return to the museum throughout the year to help prep and clean bones for research.

As we continue to count, clean, and research our summer finds, stay tuned for breaking news on the 2011 Digs.  Be the first to register by signing up for our dig e-news.  In the mean time, Dallas and William and the rest of the Dinosphere Crew will be looking forward to seeing you soon!

For some fun family reading, check out this article about two new species of horned dinosaurs that have been discovered - Maybe you could be the next discoverer!

Day 7 - Digging the Last Day

On the last day of the Family Digs, we were hard at work trying to finish up excavations of the week's discoveries while making some new ones.  Pictured below is the cool find of the day - can you guess what it is?

Some of you may have guessed but we'll go ahead and tell the rest of you - It's a Nanotyrannus tooth!  William was especially excited about this find made by Isaac's mom Melinda.  The Nanotryannus ('dwarf tryant') is a genus of tyrannosaurid dinosaur, and is possibly a juvenile specimen of Tyrannosaurus. It's always interesting to find carnivorous teeth in the midst of herbivorous bones because it gives us insight as to what dinosaurs might have dined on the Edmontosaurus.

As you can see from the above picture, the families were hard at work up to the very last minute of digging time.  We were up to ears in plastering and once again, everyone walked away with their names on something, either from discovery, excavation, or both.  Cheryl and Clay worked tirelessly for 2 days on the fibula, getting it to where it will be ready to be jacketed by the teachers.  While patiently working to 'take the wall down' to the level of the fibula, they ran across a number of more bones and they even found a rib bone with teeth marks.

We hate to say good-bye to the last of our families and to our friends in Faith, and we are already looking forward to next year.  We will continue to post updates throughout the year so check back and find out what we're up to and what you need to plan for.  We wish the teachers luck in their digging adventures and can't wait to see what they find so stay tuned!

Day 6 - Digging Bones, Lots of Them.

Sunny days are here again so we headed out to the site with van loads of excited families.  Luckily, some of the families who were with us the day before at the Black Hills Institute had signed up for 2 days of digging and so they were able to still get some dig-time in.  We started out with the usual surface collecting and even though this is done every day, it never ceases to amaze us what is found in the very places we're so used to looking!  Today was especially surprising because 10-year old Joshua found a 65-million year old crocodile tooth!

Once we got to the site and down to digging, the day seemed to pass quickly.  The museum staff was quite busy going from one digger to the next, as they uncovered a great number of bones.  It almost seemed like they were making up for lost time and a day of digging missed as Mike and Kate uncovered 5, and Ashley and Laura uncovered 5 or 6!  Once again, not all of the finds were able to be unearthed by the end of the digging day as several were large enough that they needed to be jacketed and plastered - a process that takes at least 24 hours to complete.  All of the bones are carefully wrapped and mapped before they are transported back to the lab for further research.

As you can see from the group shot below, our Day 6 Diggers were in great (and silly) spirits when the day came to an end.  They worked hard and had fun, and everyone came away from the site with their name on something.  Only one day left of digging with the families and then Melissa and Rick will be arriving with the teachers!

Day 5 - Digging the Black Hills Institute

We awoke to Day 5 with gray skies and rain.  Once we got confirmation from the ranch owners that our roads out to the site were unnavigable, we implemented 'Plan B'.  Plan B was a trip down to Hill City for a behind-the-scenes look at The Black Hills Institute of Geological Research.  There we received an exclusive tour, given by Pete Larson who is most famous for the excavation of Sue the T.rex.  He took us where few others are able to go:  Into the labs, the paint shops, and where the molding and casting of all their specimens take place.

Pictured above is an impression of fossilized Triceratops skin!   This fossil skin was found with an amazing Triceratops dinosaur nicknamed LANE.

This is a Brachylophosaurus that was found in Moulton, Montana.  They call him a 'Mummy Dino' due to how intact he was upon discovery.  This one is interesting because scientists could see that he was 'T.rex food' due to healed bite wounds discovered along the top side.

When we're out at our site digging, it can sometimes be difficult to imagine what our fossils might have looked like, all put together 65 million years ago.  Fossilized ribs and tendons are common finds for us so for those folks who have been digging with us, this an especially cool specimen to view up close because it's easy to see the ribs and tendons in tact.

All in all it was a good day with a lots of cool discoveries and family learning.  We were happy and privileged that Pete took us on the tour and he answered lots of questions from the eager young minds of some budding paleontologists.  Our families are pictured above with Pete with the original STAN the T.rex.

Day 4 - Digging Surprises

One of the best things about digging is the fact that once your digging tool hits the dirt you have no idea what you're going to find.  The recognizable 'crunch' that's heard when metal meets fossil is just enough to produce tiny little goosebumps and a quick rush that can only come when you know that you've found something.   What that something is takes time to uncover and often times is not what it seems at first.  A quarter of an inch of exposed fossil could be anything from fossilized tendon, to parts of a skull, a toe, or something bigger like a femur or fibula.  That being said, today's 'big finds' did not necessarily come from new finds, but they actually came from previous finds which were as of today, redefined.  As Day 4 diggers continued to work on fossils left by Day 2, some suprising discoveries were made...

Surprise # 1: We would like to officially change the classification of Friday’s Scapula to a pubis bone – one of the pelvic or hip bones.  This was discovered as the size of the scapula increased while it was being uncovered by a series of folks over the past couple of days.  Today it was Sean, Jordan and Jayne who did the final unearthing.  You see, digging is a collaborative effort.  It might take one person to find a bone but it could possibly take a small village to unearth it.

Surprise # 2: Today’s digging also uncovered more – and finally the end of – Friday’s tibia.  Or so we thought.  Once again, we would like to change that classification to a large fibula.  We’re talking a 3 ½ to 4 foot fibula folks and it’s awesome.  Even cooler was the fact that as the fibula was being uncovered, another ‘very large bone’ seemed to be hiding behind it.  Stay tuned to see how that one unfolds.

As always, we’re crossing our digits that the blue skies and cool breezes keep up the good work.   We could not dig without them.

Day 3 - Digging the 4th

Happy 4th of July from Faith!

Day 2 - SD Discovery Digging

This year The Children’s Museum partnered with the South Dakota Discovery Center in Pierre, SD, and we welcomed a group of their members on our second day of digging.  It was nice to host the South Dakotans as they trekked from Pierre to Faith to join us.

We uncovered some pretty cool stuff on Day 2:  A sacrum was found by Riley and Emily, Hannah uncovered a nice scapula (which she had unknowingly been sitting on all morning!) but it had to be left in the ground for further exposure, and Mary and Jesse were hard at work for most of the day on a tibia that goes straight into the wall.  We can’t wait to see what it looks like when it comes out!

The best and most surprising find of the day came in the form of a teeny tiny prehistoric snail.  That’s right, a snail - otherwise known as a gastropod.   This little guy was smaller than a finger nail and was found by  Jackson.  The guys were excited about this find because it gives us another species at the site that we didn’t know about.

When the day was all said and done, the diggers were happy and everyone walked away having found something to talk about.  Another good day of digging, can’t wait to see what next week brings us.

Day 1 - Can You Dig It?

Day 1.  We started off with blue skies and light winds which continued throughout the day.  The temperature stayed in the 90’s (ouch) but plenty of water and digging under the tents made the day feel like a cool 89.   This year we dug at Site B and by the time we’d arrived, William and Dallas (‘The Guys’) had everything prepped and ready to go.   We even got a new location for the House of Blues (very exciting).  Each day starts with surface collecting and today’s surface finds included a dentist’s office worth of Edmontosaurus teeth thanks to Jayne, and then Caroline found a piece of an arm bone – right there on the surface!

Right away Richard and Susan found what ended being a hot bed of bones.  A partially exposed caudal vertebra turned into the uncovering of  a tibia and another bone yet to be identified.  After over 6 hours of working on exposing their bones, they were unable to excavate them completely.  Luckily, their names will be forever attached to those bones as the discoverers and we will have to rely on the next few days of diggers to complete the process.

Caroline and Catherine were also on a roll with the bones they uncovered, including part of a large rib, a spinal column and a tail bone.  Those two had a lot of success for first-time diggers!  Speaking of first time diggers, Sean joined our TCM digging crew this year and on his first day of digging he found two vertebrae and several more bones which were yet to be identified and unearthed by the end of the day.  Our Day 2 diggers will have a lot to work on when they arrive!

All in all it was a successful first day, it felt great to be back in South Dakota and to see all of our friends at the Prarie Vista Inn and the ranch.  We’re looking forward to the next couple of weeks.  We have 6 more days of digging with families and then it’s the teachers’ turn!

More tomorrow.

See you in Faith!

The count down is on and there are only 4 days left until we get down to digging.  We're super excited and have 7 days of straight family digging ahead of us, followed closely by 5 days of teachers.  That's right, teachers get to dig too and they bring their knowledge and expertise back to the classrooms. Check back with us during the digs to see what we're up to.

For those of you not familiar with the digs, here’s a little background to bring you up to speed - see you soon!

Ruth Mason ranched near Faith, SD, a prairie community 100 miles northeast of the Black Hills. At the age of seven Ruth discovered a bed of ancient bones weathering out of a bluff a few miles from her folk’s house. More than 100 years later, this quarry still contains the remains of SEVERAL THOUSAND Edmontosaurus annectens, all disarticulated. There are several theories as to why so many dinosaur remains were found in one spot. One possibility is that a river system could have transported the bones a few at a time to a sandy coast at the edge of a receding Cretaceous sea. OR a great storm could have trapped and drowned a heard on a split of land. Various Carnivorous teeth, including that of T. rex, have been found at the site, which could mean that those beasts were scavenging remains. How do you think they may have gotten there?

Every day begins at 8:00 am as families and museum staff make their way from Faith to the Ruth Mason Quarry. Everyone will have the opportunity to actively excavate real dinosaur fossils under the guidance of The Children’s Museum staff. As participants, families will help with current scientific research designed to provide valuable information about the environment in which dinosaurs lived. All of the necessary tools and information are provided and all are encouraged to bring log books and cameras to document their findings. At the site, families will experience the process of fossil discovery, excavations, mapping and jacketing in order to prepare the fossils for transportation back to the Paleo Lab at The Children’s Museum.

Final preparations have been made for families. As you can see, Dallas and William have carefully mapped the digging area using grids to ensure that records may be kept of where every piece was found at the site.

And of course, no dig site is complete without dig-quality restroom accomodations –

Welcome to the House of Blues!

As we continue to cross our fingers for blue skies and dry ground,

stay tuned as the digging days unfold…

3 spots left for 2010 Family Dinosaur Digs!

We only have 3 spots left on July 7th for the 2010 Family Dig Days!  To register, call 317.334.4000.

For more information go to The Children's Museum website.

To see what happens at the dig site visit our Digging 101 page.

Hope to see you there!

2010 Family Digs are Almost Full!

As of Friday, March 26, we only have 9 spots left on the 2010 Family Dinosaur Digs:

  • Tuesday 3/6 - 2 spots available
  • Wednesday 3/7 - 9 spots available

Click here to check out our adventures from the 2009 Digs and

click here to learn about the dig site and your fearless leaders!

If you're signed up for the 2010 Digs then look for your information packets to be sent to you soon!

Dig Orientation will be held on Saturday, May 29, from 2-4 pm at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis. Families will receive an overview of the digs, meet the paleontologists and digging staff and then head to the Paleo Prep Lab.  Families who are unable to attend will still receive all the information ahead of time in order to be ready for their dig days.

Contact for any questions.

Hope to see you soon!

Dinosaurs, Rodeos, Fireworks – Oh Boy!

Still trying to find something fun and extraordinary to do with your family this summer?  Take them on a road trip and journey to the geographic heart of our nation in South Dakota.  Join us for a day of dinosaur digging in Faith, see a rodeo in Belle Fourche and then head to Mount Rushmore for Fourth of July fireworks and festivities.  You’ll never tire of things to do in South Dakota so register today while there are still digging days left!

2010 Dig Days:

July 2 - SOLD OUT!

July 3 - 12 spots left

July 5 - 4 spots left

July 6 - 6 spots left

July 7 - 9 spots left

July 8 - 6 spots left

Click here for more information.

Click here to register.  Hope to see you soon!

The Perfect Holiday Gift.

Give your family the perfect holiday gift and register them for a Family Dinosaur Dig next summer!  Roll up your shirt sleeves and dig into the South Dakota Badlands while under the supervision of The Children's Museum's paleontologists and staff.  Register for one day or more than one!This is a fantastic way for families to spend quality time while digging for 65 million-year-old dinosaur fossils in Faith, SD.  These digging adventures may be enjoyed by children 8 and up, parents, and grandparents!

Dig Dates are July 2, 3, 5, 6 7, or 8, 2010
8 a.m.–4 p.m.
Fee: $125 per member, $155 per nonmember

Costs are per person per day and include lunch at the ranch and transportation to and from the hotel to the dig site. Recommended for families with children ages 8 and above.

Click here to register your family for our 2010 Dinosaur Dig!

For more information about our Family Day Digs visit our Dinosphere website or email us at

2010 Family Dinosaur Digs - Registration Starts Soon!

This just in...

2010 Dig Dates and Prices have arrived and open registration is just around the corner!

The Dates: July 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 & 8

The Prices: $125 per member; $155 per non-member

What it includes: Transportation from the hotel to the dig site and back, lunch at the ranch, an on-site EMT, a covered dig site, a maximum of 16 diggers at the site, 4-5 museum staff and paleontologists to guide you on your digging adventure, and memories to last a life time!

When/How to register: Open registration begins on Friday, November 27, 2009.  Visit the The Children's Museum website or call 317.334.4000 to register your family for one or more digging days.  These digs make the perfect holiday gift!

Contact us at with any questions.

2009 Dig Reunion - Can you dig it?

Enjoy a behind the scenes look at our Paleo Prep Lab!

Enjoy a behind the scenes look at our Paleo Prep Lab!

Calling all diggers!  We're looking forward to hosting the 2009 Dig Reunion for families and teachers! so here's the scoop...


Saturday, November 21, 2009


The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Paleo Prep Lab and SicencePort


Visit your Cretaceous Finds!

Bring in a disk of your digging photos that we can add to a shared photo file.

Tour the Paleo Lab and say 'Hi' to your favorite Paleo guys - Dallas and William.

Check out our new Dino Investigation in SciencePort.

Explore the museum from top to bottom.

RSVP to:

Dig Recap

After the families and teachers have finished their digs, Dallas and William leave no exposed bone behind.  As a result, they usually have to stay for several days after everyone else has left, and continue to excavate all of the bones that were uncovered in the previous weeks' digs.  This often leads to even more discoveries so on their last day of digging, Dallas and William uncovered 2 femora, 2 humeri, 1 scapula and 2 ribs!

When it was all said and done, the guys headed back to The Children's Museum with 162 bones to be worked on and researched back in the lab.  Families and teachers may schedule an appointment and visit their discoveries any time throughout the year.  In fact, the guys can be seen working on their finds anytime the museum is open.  The fun and education don't end with the digs.  Anyone is welcome to visit the lab and find out what's going on.  Keep checking back here to read up on up-coming programs, dig reunions, and the latest news on the 2010 digs!

Feel free to leave comments and questions.  We'll try to respond as promptly as possible.