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National Fossil Day and Earth Science Week at Harvard Museum of Natural History

The Harvard Museum of Natural History announces a week of programs and exhibitions in celebration of Earth Science Week, beginning the week of October 10, 2010. Earth Science Week is sponsored by the American Geological Institute in partnership with the National Park Service, which has also named Wednesday, October 13, National Fossil Day. In conjunction, the museum will offer two special programs for the public, both free with museum admission, and a special Teacher Professional Development program for educators. 

Wednesday, October 13, Fossil Day at Harvard Museum of Natural History.  From 1:00 -5:00 pm, visitors will find many different hands on activities with real specimens, as we explore the amazing world of fossils, including dinosaurs, Ice Age mammals, and other prehistoric creatures. Discover how fossils form and investigate bones, teeth, claws, and fossilized footprints, looking for clues about prehistoric life. Fossil Day is offered as part of Earth Science Week, encouraging people everywhere to explore the natural world and learn about the geosciences.

Sunday, October 17: Family Program: From Trilobites to Extraterrestrials: Exploring Life on Earth and Beyond. 2:00 pm. Millions of years ago, long before the dinosaurs, many strange organisms inhabited the Earth and sea; yet fossils are all that remain. Join paleontologist Phoebe Cohen, (Harvard Ph.D.,’10) and Education and Outreach Coordinator at the MIT NASA Astrobiology Node, to explore the questions paleontologists and astrobiologists face every day. How do we know if fossils were once living animals? What is life, when did it start, and how do we search for life on other planets such as Mars?

Teacher Professional Development: Beginning in October 2010, the museum will offer a three session, professional development program for teachers from low-income communities, Teaching about Rocks and Minerals with Museum Resources. Funded in part by the Cabot Foundation, this free program focuses on what the rocks and minerals that make up our planet tell us about the history of the Earth, supports teachers in developing customized field trip plans, and provides an allowance for museum field trip transportation costs.

Geological exhibits: The Harvard Museum of Natural History offers resources for school visits, including downloadable gallery activities, plans for pre- and post-visit classroom use, and exhibit DVDs.

Romer Hall: Among the dozens of specimens in the Romer Hall of Paleontology at Harvard Museum of Natural History is the Kronosaurus, the world’s only mounted example of this 42 foot long pliosaur. One can pass by several larger mammal-like animals, excavated in Texas, such as the Diadectes, Dimetrodon, Ophiacodon, Eryops, and Edaphosaurus. Also on display are three types of flying reptiles, the Rhamophortrynchus phyllurus, the Pterodactylus elegans, and the Pterodactylus antiquus. The giant marine crocodile of the Jurassic period, the Mystriosaur, along with skulls of the “Ruling Reptiles” of the Triassic period (200-230 million years ago) and one of the first Triceratops skulls ever discovered are on permanent exhibit. A huge Pteranodon hangs on the wall, a flying reptile that caught fish in the Cretaceous. 

Fossil Cenozoic Mammals: In the Fossil Mammal Hall learn about the evolution of hoofed creatures, including some bizarre forms that emerged when South America was an island continent. See the fossilized skeleton of a 2,200-pound armadillo-like Glyptodont and the 15-foot long giant ground sloth and discover the colorful history surrounding the "Harvard Mastodon," a unique Ice Age specimen collected in 1844.

Mineral & Meteorite Gallery: Some 3,000 specimens from Harvard’s extensive mineral collections include sparkling displays of both rough and cut gemstones, and a stunning display of meteorites from around the world. Admire the 1,642 pound amethyst geode and watch the interactive video, Impact.

Arthropods: Creatures that Rule: Evolving over 500 million years, arthropod—insects, spiders, crustaceans, and centipedes—represent 85% of all animal life and have colonized every habitat on the planet. Be sure to see the case of arthropod fossils, and examine the insects caught in amber thousands of years ago.

 About the Harvard Museum of Natural History
With a mission to enhance public understanding and appreciation of the natural world, the Harvard Museum of Natural History presents to the public Harvard’s natural history collections and research of scientists across the University. Its historic displays include an extensive collection of minerals and meteorites; fossil, taxidermy, and jarred specimens; and the world-famous Blaschka "Glass Flowers". New and changing exhibitions highlight current science and address contemporary issues including climate change and new insights in evolutionary biology. The museum offers a wide array of lectures, classes, and programs for learners of all ages from school children to adults. 180,000 annual visitors make the Harvard Museum of Natural History the University's most visited museum.

The Harvard Museum of Natural History is located at 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA, a 6-7 minute walk from the Harvard Square T station. The museum is handicapped accessible. For general information, call 617.495.3045 or visit   

The press release is available for download in pdf format.