Student Dinosaur Dig Thanks to Foundation

Foundation Awards $139,720 for Classroom Grant Projects

RELEASE DATE: September 28, 2022 – “That was my best day of school ever,” gushed Lincoln Elementary student Sam Kohut after a recent science lesson.

“Not the best day in sixth grade,” he clarified later, “but my best day since preschool!”

That best day was a field trip to the Montana Dinosaur Center in Bynum, where 51 Lincoln sixth graders got a hands-on science experience in paleontology.  The trip was underwritten by a grant from the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation to Sam’s teacher, Jayci Braaten.

Sam at the dig site.

Ms. Braaten, now in her 16th year as a teacher, said sixth-grade curriculum covers lessons in earth science, fossils and relative age dating.  But, she acknowledged, “They’re pretty dry concepts to get simply from a book, and excitement around it is pretty low.”

With Montana’s rich history of paleontology, she knew there was an opportunity to better engage her students.  The grant allowed both sixth-grade classes, the other taught by Emmalee Lynch, to spend a day in Bynum along the Rocky Mountain Front, where they visited the museum, saw replicas and original dinosaur bones and visited with four working paleontologists at both private dig sites and on state land.

“The students learned that this was the first place in the world [at nearby Egg Mountain] that baby dinosaur fossils were found,” Ms. Braaten said.  A paleontologist told the students, “You are some of the only people in the world to touch a baby dinosaur bone – and that’s a once-in-a lifetime experience.”

Students find a fossil.

Students examined different layers of earth from different periods, seeing some layers full of fossils.  They were able to pick up bone fragments from the Cretaceous period, about 74 million years ago.  And they found fossilized shells, which demonstrated that the farm field they were standing in was once part of an ocean.

“I really enjoyed seeing the fossils and talking to the paleontologists – I had lots of questions,” said Sam.  He’s now more interested in dinosaurs than ever, and said his new dream is to someday visit one of the nation’s major dinosaur museums.

Students looking for shells.

“This trip truly brought science to life for the kids,” said Ms. Braaten.  “When kids can go and physically do something and talk to experts and get their questions answered, it’s very, very special.”

She said it would not have been possible, however, without the $4,469 Foundation grant, which covered bus transportation and the $50/person fee at the dinosaur center.  “I am so very grateful to the Foundation and the donors who gave our students this amazing learning opportunity.”

The grant is one of 34 awarded to schools and classrooms this year for a total of $139,720.  Since its inception of Discovery Grants and the later addition of Innovation Grants, the Foundation has distributed more than $1 million for 451 projects.

Ms. Braaten and Ms. Lynch

“We love supporting hands-on learning experiences like this field trip,” said Stephanie Schnider, executive director of the Foundation. “The majority of our grant funding comes from our truck raffle sales. So, we encourage people to support that fundraiser knowing they are helping to create this kind of learning for Great Falls students.”

To see all of the 2022-2023 Discovery and Innovation Grant recipients and projects, click  here.

To buy a Win This Truck  ticket online click here.

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Setting up an educational scholarship fund can be a meaningful way to give back to your community or to honor a loved one. There are a number of things to consider when planning a scholarship. Please contact the Foundation for assistance, we are happy to help you. Contact Stephanie Becker at [email protected] or call (406) 268-6021.