Upcoming Events

From music festivals, car races, history, heritage, food and everything in between. Here's your guide.

Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Hands On! Discovery Center: The Big Dig

August 22, 2020 @ 10:00 am - 4:00 pm

The Big Dig is a one-of-a-kind, roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, paleontology experience offered by Hands On! Discovery Center and the East Tennessee State University Museum of Natural History!

Participants will have the opportunity to work alongside paleontologists and follow the process from beginning to end, from searching for fossils in the field to curating them in the museum collection.

For ages 14 to adult.  Ages 14-16 must be accompanied by a paying adult, age 18+

Each participant will receive:

  • Name badge/lanyard
  • T-shirt with The Big Dig Logo
  • Hands On! Discovery Center/Gray Fossil Site Travel Tumbler  
  • Lunch (Please note lunch may include allergens such as gluten, wheat, and dairy.)

Participants will get to:

  • Excavate on the site, like the field crew, documenting fossil  finds and gathering sediment (weather permitting)
  • Screenwash the gathered sediment, to separate out the smallest plant and animal fossils
  • Use microscopes to pick through collected sediment searching for microfossils
  • Clean and consolidate any fossils that are found, documenting the process for each one
  • Turn over the processed fossils to the lab to be finished and cataloged in the museum collections
  • A behind-the-scenes tour will also be part of the experience as well as other activities, time permitting.

The area being excavated will include sediment that was collected from under the museum during building construction.  For over a decade, the crew has been finding fossils from this site including tapir, elephant, rhino, and panda.

Dates and Times:

  • Saturday, June 20th
  • Saturday, July 11th
  • Saturday, July 25th
  • Saturday, August 8th
  • Saturday, August 22nd

10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Please arrive 5-10 minutes early to allow time for check-in at the front desk.


$125, per person

Space is limited. Reservations are required two weeks in advance.

Things to Know:

  • All supplies and tools will be provided.
  • Please bring: sunscreen, insect repellant, a refillable water bottle, hat (Gray Fossil Site hats may be purchased for a discount in the gift shop).
  • Wear old shoes or boots and clothes that can get dirty (peroxide and other chemicals may be used) and are appropriate for the weather (may be muddy or dusty).
  • All fossils and fossil fragments MUST remain on site.
  • Every specimen receives a tag and when those tags reach milestones you will be notified!  Examples of notifications could be when specimens are received by collections, when it is assigned a specimen number, or if it is included in a publication.


Please select your date of choice to complete your registration.

Bring a copy of the email confirmation (printed or digital) with you on the day of the event, along with the signed waiver form, included in your confirmation email.

For more information or help with registration, please email reservations@visithandson.org.


August 22, 2020
10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Event Categories:


Hands On! Discovery Center
View Organizer Website


Hands On! Discovery Center
1212 Suncrest Drive
Gray, TN 37615 United States
+ Google Map
View Venue Website

Add Your Own Event

Upload your own events to our calendar.