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Fossil-hunting outing draws Dana Road students’ spoons

Second-grader DeShae Lomax peers through a magnifying glass to get a closer look at the small shell he found in the ground off Fayette Street during a fossil-hunting field trip Friday. (Brian LodenThe Vicksburg Post)

[11/20/04]Dana Road Elementary students collected thousands-of-years-old seashells near what is now Mississippi River bluffs Friday with the help of a professional geologist.

Second- and third-graders in Kat Hilderbrand’s Gifted and Talented Educational Service class dug in the mud northeast of Fort Hill Drive and Fayette Street, each coming away with a small bag of seashells and a lesson from Waterways Experiment Station geologist Sam Corson of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Corson said the land was good for fossil-hunting because it was exposed when houses were demolished. Fossils, including coral, clams, snails and scaphopods, are easily dug up in and around the approximately 400-square-foot section of land, he added.

“There was a beach here,” Corson said, adding that the area was, many thousands of years ago, under what is now the Gulf of Mexico.

“By luck it’s exposed here,” he said of the unusual ease of finding fossils on the space, adding that other fossils have been found in Vicksburg when roads have been cut.

Two such fossils were a tusk and a tooth of a mastodon found when the bypass for U.S. 61 North was cut, Corson said. The students were to end their Friday field trip with a trip to WES, 3909 Halls Ferry Road, to see those fossils, one of which was “the size of a football,” Corson added.

Also on the students’ route was a stop at the Klondyke, 100 N. Washington St., behind which layered outcroppings of limestone are exposed and visible, Corson said.

Hilderbrand said the students had been studying dinosaurs and fossils. Each was asked to bring a small shovel or kitchen spoon to school Friday for the digging.

“It’s real easy,” third-grader D’Vonte Howard said of finding the fossils, “but not so easy to get the mud off your shoes.”

The property where the students dug is owned by the city, Corson said. He’s “bumped around” as a Vicksburg resident about 30 years, and he said he noticed that the land would be good for fossil-hunting while doing volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity.

“The city was going to offer us this land,” he said, adding that that deal is still pending completion.

Other field-trip destinations this year for Hilderbrand’s G.A.T.E.S. students have included the state agricultural museum in Jackson, a creative arts festival and The Glory of Baroque Dresden exhibit in Jackson, she said. Plans are for the students to visit a puppetry guild in December, she added.

“We learned that many fossils were found in Vicksburg, under houses and schools mostly,” third-grader Keaton Reeves said.