Right now, my mind is being blown by what I have been seeing. Now, I know that sounds ominous but at least let me explain; I came along on this field trip to document the research that was to be done and keep the people back home abreast of the endeavors of the group, but I never could have imagined (as a futurist, I can imagine quite a lot, just ask anyone who knows me) the energy and strength necessary to pull off a task like a research field trip.
Over the past three days after arriving here in Lusk, Wyoming; I have witnessed a change of spirit, conviction, and passion coming from the team (which I now proudly call the group of us).
Let me take you back a little farther, on Wednesday, we all met up with our liaison from the University of Wyoming, Casper College and representative from the renowned Tate Museum, J.P. Cavigelli. He took us all out to a dinosaur dig site to show us what it would be like to be on an actual dig. He was kind, energetic and incredibly passionate about the reason for and the science of his work. This passion began to start a fire as he and Dr. Hunt explained the painstaking process of field work to the members of the team. Their attention to detail and scientific method for taking specimens, transformed a group of students into a group of scientists. This wasn’t a game, and there are no second chances when it comes to a piece of scientific evidence so fragile that the warm touch of a human hand could turn it to powder that disappears with just a breath. We all learned the correct way, the only way, no shortcuts and no exceptions. But in the end we collected a piece of real, honest to god, history. And the elation from such a task elevated us to a level of confidence and success that it has surely changed our lives. What we had learned and actually accomplished really mattered in a real world way. That day, a fire started, a thirst began and a quest for knowledge began in earnest.
Now came the questions… I was amused as I watched my teammates swarm J.P. and Dr. Hunt. I watched as they fired off question after question. Pointing to parts of the dig site with animated curiosity, and then leaning into each answer hoping the closeness would help them absorb even more knowledge. Everybody jostled for positions of closeness even when we moved from one area to another. Clamoring over the already full seats of J.P.’s SUV just to get another chance to ask a question. The remainder, who couldn’t get a seat with J.P. grilled Dr. Hunt in the other vehicle, all thirsty, eager to drink up every drop of knowledge they could extract from her. It was amazing. The bright eyes of both the teachers and the learners indicated the transfer of passion from one to the other.
That evening, around a table full of some especially terrific pizza, the teachers regaled us with stories from their past. And listened intently, as everyone shared their dreams and ambitions. It was enlightening as I watched the beginnings of a relationship form from a common thread of science and interest.
On Thursday, J.P. took us to a different field of focus. Intended to show the multi-faceted science of Geology, it triggered a brainstorm of ideas and, of course, more questions. We studied fossil beds through a variety of time periods, and received hands on demonstrations of what to look for and how it all fit together. We all had another chance to collect, sample, analyze and postulate a hypothesis. I did my best to capture as much as I could of the interactions between the team and the teachers. Actually it was quite easy, because everywhere I turned my lens there was an active learning dialog. Again, I was awestruck at the amount of energy and excitement I was witnessing.
I guess, however, the best part came today, Friday, after J.P. was gone, back to Casper and another appointment that filled his busy schedule. Today was designated a recharge day, a time to relax and reenergize. The real magic began when one of the team members, Tommy, decided to dig a little deeper into his understanding of the new XRF analyzer. He studied and researched, and came up with a more efficient and better way to use the analyzer to achieve better results and more precise documentation of those results. He even went so far as to test the machine to prove the updates worked and presented his findings to the rest of the team to gather more opinions and help reestablish a better procedure for sample taking. Tommy is a freshman, and took this all upon himself. I think this is a giant step towards developing great leadership skills. Hayden and Steve took it upon themselves to set up a tool, a gas powered diamond bit core drill. The machine had never been used, and quite honestly, no one had ever taken much interest in it. Today, however, it was pulled out of its case, assembled, and prepared for operation. We got permission from the city of Lusk to test the machine in a quarry behind the maintenance department. It was truly incredible to watch as each person assumed a role in the operation and after just two attempts, were able to extract a perfect core from a rock. The excitement was palpable, the confidence levels soared, and the team bonded in a way I had never seen before.
This is why my mind is blown. This is why I am so energized to write. This is why I am puffing my chest as I proudly announce my association with this team. And, this is my contribution to them, sharing this with you. I hope I have given you the same gift they have given me. A renewed outlook and a profound conviction to knowledge and the power it possesses.