Student observing a fossil, and classifying it for research.

A.C. Reynolds Middle School is home to a young group of paleontologists who are on a mission to help the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. 

Eighth graders in Sarah Hamilton’s science class are involved in a Citizen Science project where they are helping professionals identify microfossils from the Hell Creek Formation from Montana. 

“The Paleontologists at the museum are researching the ‘Dueling Dinosaurs,’ which is a fossil of a T. rex and triceratops dueling,” said Ms. Hamilton. “They are trying to understand what the environment was like during this time period. This will help them understand what it was like where the dinosaurs lived and understand what happened to capture these dinosaurs in a battle.”

This unique hands-on experience gave students the opportunity to work with real fossils. The data they collected helps scientists gain a better understanding of life on Earth. Ms. Hamilton says it’s important for her students to feel like their work actually serves a purpose. 

“This was great for the students, because they were able to work with real life samples and they are able to contribute to a real world science project, not just a simulation,” she said. “It shows them that everyone can contribute to a bigger project and it takes a team. It also gave them the opportunity to see what scientists do.”

Ms. Hamilton feels that having hands-on labs and activities enhances her students' learning experience. She says her students get excited about science, and are eager to see what new opportunities await them. 

“Labs and hands-on activities are great for students to explore the concepts and ideas they've learned about in class,” Ms. Hamilton explained. “I like to help students learn about a concept by trying it themselves and applying a concept to everyday life. Each student learns in their own way, and by exposing the students to the material in various ways, it helps reach multiple types of learners.”

Ms. Hamilton helping student with the lab process.

Student carefully observing and holding up a fossil.