Aimee Saddler, seventh- through 10th-grade teacher at Tualatin Valley Jr. Academy in Hillsboro, Oregon, was awarded a 2005 Don Keele Excellence in Education Award, allowing her to participate in a three-week excavation and research project at a site near New Castle, Wyoming.
On the trip, she and some 20 other paleontologist participants learned about excavation and preservation of fossils, received a box of "dental" tools, and were assigned a square meter of land to unearth. A usual square meter can take up to five eight-hour days to excavate. The Wyoming site is plentiful enough to yield up to at least five medium-to-large-size bones per square meter along with many small ones, and all participants are guaranteed to unearth relics. Aimee herself found some 60 to 70 bones on the excursion.
The Wyoming site is a tremendous asset to those with a creationist world view because of the way the fossils are laid into the mudstone. For instance, relics in this site support a theory that they were likely washed into the site with great force. Also, the bones are deposited within one meter-graded bed and layered from smallest to largest within a one meter point, supporting a quick and rapid catastrophic death, rather than years of random death in various increments of the earth's layers and formations. "Researchers are fairly certain that bones in this site were washed in by water," says Aimee, thus supporting a flood theory.
Aimee says that when she unearthed a tibia, everything suddenly became real to her. Because the trip yields time for professionals to glean from other veteran researchers, she says her goal would be to take students with her to experience this. "I have always had a keen interest in geology and paleontology since I was a teenager," says Aimee. "With money from the Don Keele Award, it was possible for me to go out into the field with trained professionals and other teachers who have a passion and interest in the same things that I do. It was wonderful to get out of the classroom and become the student again. These opportunities also help you to remember why you became a teacher in the first place."