Ariel Bowman, 28, works on a sculpture of a mastodon at the National Fossil Day event at the Florida Museum of Natural History on Saturday. Bowman is a ceramics graduate student who works on sculpting prehistoric creatures.


As children dug through the sand to find fossils, others gawked at the open-jawed mouths of the sharks on display.

About 1,120 people attended the Florida Museum of Natural History’s National Fossil Day celebration Saturday, wrote Kaitlin Gardiner, the Florida Museum marketing and public relations coordinator, in an email. Although National Fossil Day is held in October, the museum held their event later so it could be on a weekend-long event for children, said Catherine Carey, the Florida Museum public programs coordinator.

Nine different fossil societies set up booths at the event to teach children and adults about fossils. Those attending got to take home real fossils of their own, like shark teeth, wood and sand dollars.

“I definitely learned a lot,” said Courtney Smith, a 23-year-old UF linguistics doctoral student. “I didn’t realize that they had so many societies that were actually dedicated to finding fossils and doing archaeological type digs.”

Almost all the fossils on display were found in Florida.

Paul Roth, a volunteer with the Florida Paleontological Society, said Florida has a variety of fossils and creatures.

“(There are) mammoths and mastodons, there’s other extinct creatures like the American cheetah, there’s just, there’s a lot of fossils in Florida,” Roth said.

One table had microscopes where attendees could view small fossils. There was also an artist sculpting a miniature version of a mastodon out of clay.

Christine Carney, a third-grade teacher at Sherwood Elementary School in Melbourne, Florida, drove to Gainesville to meet family and decided to stop by the event, she said.

While at the event, Carney collected small fossils for all 19 of her students. She said she picked up shark teeth, sand dollars and turtle pieces.

“All kinds of nifty things,” the 48-year-old said.

Carney said she plans to incorporate the fossils into her scheduled lesson plan.

“It’s going to be part of my weeklong curriculum on fossils, because I have a whole bunch of samples to give to my students, and I think they’re going to love it,” Carney said.