From holding millions of years in the hands to seeing billions of years in the sky, kids in Labrador West learned that anyone can be a palaeontologist or an astronomer with a little luck and a lot of patience.
John Miller, with New Jersey’s Pearl Observatory, visited the schools in the area for his 12th year to teach students about dinosaurs with fossil digs and putting a dinosaur skeleton together.
The Labrador City Recreation Department also sponsored Family Science Nights, where Miller showed more dinosaur fossils to younger children, and in the evenings met with others on Smokey Mountain for astronomy lessons.
Miller brought along fossils he discovered either by accident or after weeks of searching. Each item has its own special significance for him with a memorable finding.
Some finds are easier than others. On a trip to a phosphate mine in North Carolina, Miller was walking with a group in an area the size of Labrador City.
“This rock was laying on the ground, and I was telling the group ‘Sometimes you have to pick up a rock and turn it over.’”
To the group’s astonishment, the other side of the rock had a megalodon tooth imbedded into it.
“Sometimes that’s how it is, and sometimes you don’t find squat for weeks.”
On another expedition, Miller found a tyrannosaurus tooth laying on the ground.
“You have to get lucky, and sometimes you have to get luckier. And when you can show kids this stuff, they absolutely love it. All kids are intrigued with dinosaurs. So to come in and touch a footprint or egg or dinosaur bone is great.”
Miller has travelled around North America searching for various fossils.
“I hire guides, and they get me places you otherwise couldn't get to. They have contracts with ranchers, allowing us to get onto properties. You go to different places to get different things.”
The oldest item he brought to Labrador West was a Pennsylvania trilobite, a plant fossil from the cretaceous dinosaur age approximately 450 million years old.
Miller said it’s never too late for anyone to get into fossils or space.
“I don’t have a degree in palaeontology but I dig them up and I get paid for it. Just like I'm going to put my jacket on later and become an astronomer. I don't have a degree in astronomy, but I teach teachers. I'm a business man, that's what gets me here.”
After the dinosaur program, Miller brought his telescope outside and showed the group star clusters, the moons and clouds on Jupiter, and craters on the moon.