AYER — On Tuesday, Oct. 19, the fourth and fifth grade classes at the Page Hilltop School went back in time with the assistance of Dr. Todd Rider of The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Labs. Lincoln Labs is a federally funded research and development center chartered to apply advanced technology to problems of national security. The labs also do science outreach programs for grades K-12 at no cost to area schools.
Page-Hilltop guidance counselor Betsy Dolan arranged for Rider to visit the school and present a program on fossils to approximately 200 students.
“We are so happy to have Dr. Rider here at the school,” Dolan said. “The topics covered in this hands-on program are beneficial for the students and also tie into the MCAS frameworks.”
Rider, who resides in Littleton, visits about 20 schools a year when he is not studying viruses at the lab. “A lot of schools aren’t equipment to provide hands-on experiences on this level for kids,” said Rider. “I love being able to expose children to different aspects of science and watch them be amazed and excited.”
Two classrooms at a time assembled in the Cultural Arts Room to learn from Rider. Students walked into the room as Huey Lewis and News’ Back in Time played over the sound system. Rider gave an overview of the geological eras — the Precambrian, the Paleozoic, the Mesozoic, and the Cenozoic. Then, different types of fossils were discussed and the students spent time working in small groups to identify a variety of real fossils.
“This is such a great opportunity for the students,” fifth-grade teacher Julie Tobin said. “In science right now they are studying classifying animals and this is a hands-on way to practice classifying. There are also connections in social studies — we are studying how humans followed Woolly mammoths across the Bering Straight into North America.”
Each student looked through magnifying glasses to identify fossils such as petrified wood, ammonite, shark teeth, dinosaur eggshells and insects.
“It was really fun,” fifth-grader Austin Schimke said. “I got to hold a piece of dinosaur poop. I think I should go wash my hands!”