Budding archeologists, dig this: here's your chance to unearth real fossils.

The excavation work will be offered as part of the Dino Bone-anza from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Xploration Station, a branch of the Houston Museum of Natural Science located in The Woodlands Mall. Treasure hunters can keep their finds, which might include 300 million year old seashells, plants or maybe a prehistoric shark's tooth."" One of the really interesting things is that Texas was a marine environment at one time, so most of the things they'll be finding are marine animals,"" said Erin Blatzer, the museum's assistant director of public relations.

Experts at the event will identify what's been uncovered and answer questions.
""All of the dirt actually came from different sites in Texas, so there will be people on hand to discuss where the fossil was found, how old it is and how (conditions) related to the various animals that would have been alive at that time,"" Blatzer said.
Paleontologist-guided tours of dinosaur exhibits will be conducted at 11:30 a.m. and 1, 2:30 and 4 p.m., letting children discover that, at various periods in history, creatures far different than cattle roamed the area.

""Someone with experience in the field digging up dinosaurs is going to be talking about the various kinds of dinosaurs you can see at the exploration station and what we know about them, like how we know the gender of the dinosaur when just looking at the bones,"" Blatzer said. Also planned is a peek at a fossilized skull of an Oligocene Oreodont, a 30 million year old mammal, which will be methodically freed from the stone in which it was discovered.

Other activities will include learning about three-dimensional topographical maps, which scientists use to find buried dinosaur bones. ""They'll get to see the tools scientists use to figure out where you would look for a dinosaur. There's a lot of science that goes into determining the most likely spots dinosaurs would be (buried),"" Blatzer said. Children also can take part in making casts of dinosaur footprints, arts and crafts and face-painting at the Dino Bone-anza. ""There's a lot of hands-on things kids can do, kind of get dirty and down in it, that will really excite them about science. They're having fun and don't realize they're learning, but it's something that will show them how fun science can be,"" Blatzer said.

Admission to the event is $5 for children aged 3 to 11 and $10 for adults, except for museum members, who get in free. For tickets or more information, visit www.hmns.org or call 281- 364-7200.

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