2020 Homeschool Classes

Learn about earth science with hands-on science programs at Penn Dixie! Our interactive classes are led by trained educators and designed for homeschool students. There are multiple options to choose from with each class consisting of multiple activities. All classes follow New York State science standards.


Space Day (October 6):

Join Penn Dixie educators to learn about all things space during World Space Week! During this 3-hour interactive lesson, students will learn about the Sun, Moon, the planets in our solar system, and much more. Students can register for this stand-alone class by itself or in conjunction with the 4-week series. Rain Date: October 8.

Registration is $25 per student for this class. Additional registrants from the same household are $20. Registration fee covers Space Day programming and associated materials and supplies.

Session times:

9 am – 12 pm (ages 5-7)

1 pm- 4 pm (ages 8 and up)

Children must be accompanied by an adult for the duration of the class. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only one adult per student is permitted. We cannot accommodate younger siblings at this time. Masks are required and social distancing will be maintained.

Please contact Dr. Holly Schreiber at holly@penndixie.org or 716-627-4560 to reserve a space. Payment is due at the time of registration.


Dinosaurs! (October 13):

October is International Dinosaur Month! In celebration of dinosaurs, Penn Dixie is offering a stand-alone 3-hour class on all things dino. Students will learn about dinosaurs and other animals that lived during the Mesozoic Era and why they’re not around anymore, using hands-on activities. Students can register for this class by itself or in conjunction with the 4-week series. Rain Date: October 15.

Registration is $25 per student for this class. Additional registrants from the same household are $20. Registration fee covers Dinosaurs programming and associated materials and supplies.

Session times:

9 am – 12 pm (ages 5-7)

1 pm – 4 pm (ages 8 and up)

Children must be accompanied by an adult for the duration of the class. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only one adult per student is permitted. We cannot accommodate younger siblings at this time. Masks are required and social distancing will be maintained.

Please contact Dr. Holly Schreiber at holly@penndixie.org or 716-627-4560 to reserve a space. Payment is due at the time of registration.


Refund policy:

In the event of light rain, the program will take place as scheduled. Guests are advised to wear boots and rain gear. If there is heavy rain or lightning, that week’s class will take place on the rain date. We will make this announcement via email if the weekly session is moved to the rain date. If both programs are canceled by Penn Dixie due to weather, all guests will receive a refund for that week’s class. Otherwise, our usual cancellation policy applies.

Camps & Workshops

Children ages 8 to 13 discover the natural sciences through four different Penn Dixie adventures that emphasize hands-on learning, outdoor fun, and teamwork. All camps and workshops are open for enrollment unless otherwise indicated.

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Dinosaurs, Fossils, and Nature Camp (5 Days)

IMG_0565Our most popular camp is back! Science comes alive at two exciting sites right in your own neighborhood. On Monday and Tuesday, campers will explore geology and paleontology at Penn Dixie while collecting fossils that are older than dinosaurs. On Wednesday, campers will venture off to Past & Present in Blasdell to tour the museum and discover the mysteries of the dinosaurs from a real dinosaur hunter — Glen LaPlaca!

Campers return to Penn Dixie on Thursday and Friday to investigate our nature trails, learn about local ecology, identify, animal tracks, and more! Campers must be dropped off at partner locations.

Locations: Penn Dixie and Past & Present Science & Nature Store

Schedule: 9 am to 3 pm Monday to Friday; Extended care not available

2019 Sessions:

  • Session 1 – July 15 to 19
  • Session 2 – August 12 to 16

Rate: $200 per camper. Select either Session 1 or 2. Register by May 15 and save $5 per camper! Use code: EARLY19. Penn Dixie members please call 627-4560 for code to receive $10 off registration. Don’t delay — this camp fills quickly!


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Nature Expedition Camp (5 Days)

IMG_0702Children explore the natural world at three great nature centers! Campers will investigate insects and plants and learn important wilderness survival skills at Reinstein Woods. At Evangola State Park campers will visit wetlands, examine skulls, go fishing and more. Campers will head to Penn Dixie to explore paleontology, geology and collecting 380 million year old fossils. Campers must be dropped off at partner locations. Daily schedule varies by session.

Locations: Reinstein Woods Nature PreserveEvangola State Park, and Penn Dixie

Schedule: 9 am to 3 pm Monday to Friday; Extended care not available

2019 Session:

  • Session 2 – August 26 to 30 (Monday at Reinstein Woods, Tuesday-Wednesday at Penn Dixie, Thursday-Friday at Evangola)

Rate: $200 per camper/$190 for Penn Dixie and Reinstein Woods members. Select either Session 1 or 2. Register by May 15 and save $5 per camper! Use code: EARLY19. Penn Dixie and Reinstein Woods members: Call 716-627-4560 for your code to receive $10 off registration.


 

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Space Camp Workshop (3 Days)

IMG_0525Blast off into space fun! Children will explore our solar system through science and engineering. Campers will learn about space flight through rocketry, examine microfossils that may resemble fossil life on other planets, view our sun safely through special telescopes and glasses, and participate in many other fun science and engineering activities.

During the workshop each camper will build, study, and launch two different Estes Model Rockets that he or she can keep. One optional night of stargazing just for our campers will also take place — date and time TBA. All materials are included.

Location: Three days at Penn Dixie

Schedule: 9 am to 3 pm Wednesday to Friday; Extended care not available

2019 Sessions:

  • Session 2 – August 7 to 9

Rate: $140 per camper/$130 for Penn Dixie members. Select Session 2. Register by May 15 and save $5 per participant! Use code: EARLY19. Members: Please call 716-627-4560 for your $10 discount code.


Campers must register and complete all health and emergency contact forms at least one week prior to the first day of camp. Registration closes one week (7 days) prior to the first date of a camp or workshop session. Parents/guardians: Be sure to review our cancellation policy. All campers are bound to our Code of Conduct. For additional help contact Director of Education Dr. Holly Schreiber at: (716) 627-4560 or using our online form.

May 2019: Dig With The Experts

Join us for our signature event — Dig with the Experts! This is our very popular, once yearly opportunity to unearth the best, most complete, and most unexpected fossils at Penn Dixie. We’ll have equipment do the heavy lifting and scientific experts on site to help with locating and identifying the best fossils. You’ll have to do your share of splitting and digging, of course, but you’re guaranteed to find something cool and interesting.

Saturday May 18: 9 am to 4 pm
Sunday May 19: 9 am to 4 pm
Monday May 20: 9 am to 4 pm (limited staffing)

Expert volunteers — including scientists, leading fossil collectors, and experts on local geology — will lead the dig in a freshly excavated section of the Lower Windom Shale and will demonstrate how to find Devonian Period trilobites, cephalopods, fish remains, brachiopods, corals, wood, and a range of other marine invertebrates. Thanks to our experts, we are celebrating our 15th dig in 2019! Saturday participants will receive a special commemorative gift.

But, wait — there’s more! ‘Paleo’ Joe Kchodl will once again join us for a special science talk the evening before the dig. Paleo Joe will present: The Fossil Adventures of PaleoJoe at on Friday May 17 at 6:30 pm in the Gateway Building Auditorium, 3556 Lakeshore Road in Blasdell, NY. This family-friendly presentation is FREE for Penn Dixie members AND registered dig guests, or $5 for the public. No reservations needed.

Tickets:
Saturday May 18: SOLD OUT
Sunday May 19: SOLD OUT
Weekend Pass: SOLD OUT
Monday May 20: Included for all guests.

Director’s Notes: This program will sell out — please reserve early. In commemoration of our 15th dig, we offer Child (under age 18) tickets for Sunday’s dig at $15 each. Children are welcome to attend on Saturday at the regular rate. We do not recommend that children under age 7 attend this program due to the technical and safety requirements. During Dig With The Experts, other areas of Penn Dixie will be open to fossil collectors of all ages and regular tours will be available. Children must be accompanied at all times. Tickets are electronic and will not be mailed.

International Guests: Please email Dr. Phil Stokes at phil@penndixie.org with your name, order info (i.e., dates, numbers and types of tickets), and membership status. We’ll send you a PayPal invoice directly.


Dig with the Experts draws collectors from around the globe for this unique opportunity, which was developed and is currently co-led by our friends from the Cincinnati Dry Dredgers. Bring a hammer, chisel, safety glasses, newspaper, and paper towels to wrap your fossils. Extra water is recommended, plus bring rain gear just in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Food trucks will be on site Saturday and Sunday to serve lunch. Guests are welcome to bring their own food and beverages, as well as a small cart to transport personal items and specimens. Chairs and umbrellas are okay, too. We thank Zoladz Construction Co., Inc. for their help to get Penn Dixie ready for this big event.

Additional information:

Buffalo ranked America’s favorite city to visit, upstaging all competitors

Penn Dixie Frequently asked questions

Report on 2016 Dig with the Experts

Updates from 2016 Dig with the Experts

Celebrating Penn Dixie’s Heroes

Celebrating Penn Dixie’s Heroes: Eileen Eich, Liz Gonsiorek, and Sheila Kelly

By Elizabeth Schiavoni, Development & Marketing Officer

I met Eileen Eich on the Penn Dixie site in the Summer of 2017. She spoke excitedly from her wheelchair about climbing over the piles of rocks and collecting fossils on the site in the 1970s, before it was a Fossil Park and Nature Reserve. Accompanied by her daughter, Judy Klump, who shared fond memories of the site and the role her mother played in creating the site’s operating organization, the Hamburg Natural History Society in 1993.

In the single month I spent with HNHS, up to meeting Eileen, I consistently heard the same levels of enthusiasm for the fossil pits and the people who love them from volunteers, members, and visitors. As a lifelong volunteer for community resources, I was curious about the origins of this dedication. Available copies of the Hamburg Sun and Buffalo News from the 1980s and 1990s and Town of Hamburg meeting minutes tell a story of environmental activism and unwavering citizens answering a call to civic duty.

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Standing: Sheila Kelly (left) and Liz Gonsiorek (right). Seated: Eileen Eich.

The next time I saw Eileen, Judy was helping her with the door of the Town of Hamburg Community Center on a warm evening in September. The HNHS staff and President of the Board of Directors waited in the billiard room to hear the story of the founding of the organization from her and two other unwavering citizens invited by Judy.

Liz Gonsiorek regularly wrote about the threat of industrial development on the Penn Dixie site in local papers as developers showed interest from 1989 to 1992. While talking about pleasant walks on the site Liz noted her motivation, “I’m always interested in more green space and preserving that type of activity for people.”

Sheila Kelly also signed on opinion articles for the preservation of the land with Liz and Eileen. She later stayed with the HNHS in different leadership roles until the mid 2000’s. She was honored for her outstanding service to the organization in 2002. Eileen, Liz, and Sheila all attended town meetings arguing against development and for preservation. Liz reflected, “I was really happy that other people were interested in doing something like this.”

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The original HNHS banner hangs in our office above Dr. Holly’s desk.

The circle of community leaders in cushioned chairs by the fireplace represented generations of support for preserving the Penn Dixie site. The conversation was peppered with light and joyous, recollections of time on the site with family. Judy joking, “I never went there,” for partying when her elders brought up the bonfires. Liz sat with a thick file folder on her lap, pulling out articles, records, and pictures throughout the night. The interview moved down the timeline as Sheila described the group of volunteers drawn to preserving the land becoming the HNHS.

The Town Board appointed Eileen, Sheila, and five other volunteers to a committee on the possible development and management of the site on March 9th, 1993. That May they took their case to the Bayview and Big Tree Neighborhoods surrounding the site during informational meetings for homeowners. The Town purchased the land to be deeded to the HNHS on February 27th, 1995. Sheila believes the date of the first HNHS site cleanup on July 11th, 1996 marks the true beginning of the organization. Liz agreed. “It took a long time to get to the point where we could say we’re going to have a cleanup,” Said Sheila. “I don’t know how many dumpsters of tires and construction debris we picked up. I think some cars were buried in the mud,” she added.

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Penn Dixie library display from the 1990s. Picture provided by Liz Gonsiorek.

Discussing the level of safety on the site since the volunteer powered cleanups throughout the 1990s lead to the topic of restrictive covenants. Anything going in on the rest of the land that wasn’t the fossil park, “had to be low industrial,” Sheila explained. The present executive director Phil Stokes asked, “So you got it so that the other developments around there wouldn’t be polluting the air?” Liz put it succinctly, “you’re not going to have this park and then have another chemical plant go in.” She thumbed through her file and revealed the relevant paper dating the restrictive covenants to 1992.

I asked about the group acquisition of the wetlands adjacent to the fossil pits in the following years and Sheila confirmed the restrictive covenants made that easier. She continued, “But we were really busy then. I mean we went everywhere. We had poster boards.” Liz put her finger on a picture of the group’s display and passed it around the circle. The text “A Geological Treasure! Right Here in Hamburg!” surrounds a treasure chest on a board above a case of rocks and fossils. Judy looks at the picture and remarks, “I used to do that with Mom. We went to different libraries.” Judy dates the experience to 1995 and 1996 when her own son was 3 and 4 years old and would help with their educational outreach.

We chatted about the town officials, science teachers, dedicated volunteers, and first staff members that aided the group’s growth in those first few years. Eileen conveyed her delight that people came, “from Las Vegas and California, just to visit us.” Eileen also commented on Sheila’s long term commitment to the organization. I asked Sheila if there was anything that she ever wanted to see happen when she worked with the group that didn’t happen. She couldn’t think of anything. “I think they really exceeded expectations. I never thought in my imagination that it would ever be this big.”

Official Penn Dixie Field Guide

Thanks to the New York State Geological Association, we’re pleased to offer a digital version of our definitive guide — Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Nature Reserve: A Window Into The Devonian Period of Western New York. The guide appears in the 89th Annual NYSGA Meeting Guidebook — print copies available here. You may download the Official Penn Dixie Field Guide for educational use only.

The guide was written by Executive Director Dr. Phil Stokes — a geologist — and Director of Education Dr. Holly Schreiber — a paleontologist — and provides a broad introduction to the history and science of Penn Dixie. Topics in the 18-page paper include:

  • Geological setting of New York State in the Devonian Period
  • Plate tectonics affecting the Catskill Basin and WNY
  • Why many different types of fossils are found at Penn Dixie
  • An overview of the main types of fossils found, including brachiopods, bryozoans, trilobites, crinoids, bivalves, gastropods, cephalopods, plants, and fish
  • Images of our fossils with updated nomenclature
  • A discussion of the fossil-bearing layers at Penn Dixie
  • Our organization’s history, and how we ended up as Penn Dixie!