October 18, 2011 - UWA Teacher Workshop - Sumter Co. AL

Tuesday, October 18, 2011, educators from all over Alabama and even a few from neighboring states got together in Livingston for the 13th Fossils of the Black Belt teacher workshop.  The first workshop was held in 1997, and was organized by the late Richard Thurn of the University of West Alabama and David Kopaska-Merkel and Andrew K. Rindsberg, then both at the Geological Survey of Alabama.  Over the years, at least 250 teachers have been exposed to the Cretaceous rocks and fossils of west Alabama.  The workshops are currently supported by, in addition to the two founding organizations, the Birmingham Paleontological Society, the Alabama Geological Society, Discovering Alabama, and the Black Belt Museum.

This year, 25 teachers had registered for 26 slots.  At the last minute, three were unable to attend and one more was added, for a total of 23 attendees.  The weather was excellent.  There were seven instructors in the field, which meant that every participant had access to knowledgeable advice and assistance.  Everyone returned to the lab smiling, having had a great time and having found good fossils.  Several mosasaur vertebrae were found, including linked vertebrae constituting part of a tail with who knows what else just beneath the surface; a possibly significant find.  James Lamb’s backup shark-tooth-filled mud, 15 gallons of material collected just in case we had rain, was extremely popular.  It came just in time, as we have finally given away almost the last of the fossils generously donated to the Geological Survey of Alabama education program over the years by Don Williams.

We are always looking for ways to improve the workshop, and received several suggestions this year from participants.  Most people said they wanted more time in the field!  Several people were not able to attend because of lack of funds.  Funding cuts in Alabama's education budget make it harder every year for teachers to participate in workshops like this.  We plan to look into finding a way to provide scholarships to teachers who don't have financial support from their school systems.

Will there be a fossil workshop in 2012? Count on it!  Eight people who wanted to attend this year were unable to do so for one reason or another.  And every year we hear from teachers who have just started teaching or just found out about the workshop.

                                                                                            --Dr. David C. Kopaska-Merkel


2008 Teacher Workshop photos

2009 Teacher Workshop photos

2010 Teacher Workshop photos