Paleontology Explorers: Kansas

Paleontology Explorers KS

Starting location: Sternberg Museum of Natural History
Hays, Kansas (July 7th)  

Ending location: Sternberg Museum of Natural History
Hays, Kansas (July 12th)  



Come explore the fossils of Kansas! Sharks, ammonites, giant clams, ancient sea turtles, fossilized ferns, and giant mosasaurs are only the beginning of the incredible diversity of fossil organisms found here. In this camp, students will be introduced to paleontology field work done right. Using professional field equipment, we will prospect for surface fossils, document sites, and learn how to correctly and safely collect fossil material. Along the way, students will learn how to identify fossil material, and be introduced to the basics of sedimentary geology. We also emphasize field safety skills, training students how to work safely in the hot, dry environments fossils are frequently found. Discussion and building critical thinking skills are also emphasized as we learn about the geologic record, and explore the evidence for evolution we find preserved in the rocks!


Paleontologist, fossil preparator, Park Ranger (John Day Fossil Beds National Monument)

Instructor: Jessica Barnett
Jessica is a paleontologist with a passion for finding and cleaning fossils. She’s worked alongside fossil preparators at numerous sites and with material of various ages. She has prepped fossils all across the US at locations big and small. From Pleistocene megafauna in South Dakota and Permian crinoids in Texas, to Miocene monkeys in Oregon and Cretaceous crocodiles in Washington, D.C., Jessica loves to work with it all. She has developed training programs in fossil preparation for independent museums and the National Park Service. When she doesn’t have her hands in the dirt, she can be found at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument working as a park ranger. Jessica is an alum of Fort Hays State University, completing her MS in Geosciences in 2017.





Biology student, camps alumnus

Teaching Assistant: Margaret “Maggie” Wolf (Certified Wilderness First Responder)
Maggie Wolf is a student at the University of Evansville in Evansville, Indiana. She is a Biology and Spanish double major and hopes to continue her education and eventually conduct research. Maggie has had extensive experience in the outdoors through Girl Scouts and Venturing Crew. She participated as a student in Sternberg Paleontology Camp (2015), Southwest Biology Camp (2016), and Expedition Ecuador (2017). During the summer, Maggie works as a camps  program assistant in the field and in the office, working with students and managing logistics. During the school year, Maggie manages our wildlife data processing, including overseeing the work of our student interns. She also helps with the development of new camps, and making improvements to existing camps. 

Application Requirements

  • All application materials must turned in no later than May 14th, 2019. (But, the see the Admission Decision Schedule tab below for our four application and admission periods from February to May.) 
  • Student applicants must be ages 11 to 13 as of June 2019.
  • Complete online application.
    • To do this, you will need to set up an account with CampDocs. You can do this by clicking the link above. Once this is done, you’ll be able to log back in to your account as you complete the application process. 
    • The waiver can be found in the online application. 
    • The financial aid application can be found in the online application.
  • 2 page (5-7 paragraph) letter of interest from the student applicant. 
    • You can find suggestions for writing your letter of interest here
    • This must be submitted through the CampDoc application system. 
  • Letter of recommendation from the non-family member for the student applicant.
    • This must be submitted through the CampDoc application system. 
    • You can find instructions for recommendation letter-writers here.
    • Returning students in good standing do not need to submit a recommendation letter. 
      • Standing is determined by staff. A student not in good standing will be expressly notified by the Camps Director.

Admission Decision Schedule

We run on a rolling admission schedule from February to May. Each month, we will evaluate students with complete application files to determine admission and scholarship award decisions. If your student is denied admission to a camp, you will be specifically notified. Below we have listed evaluation period cutoff dates, and notification periods. 

Please contact us at if you have any questions about this process. 

  • Application period 1
    • Cutoff: February 23
    • Admission notifications: February 24th-28th
  • Application period 2
    • Cutoff: March 23rd
    • Admission notifications: March 24th-28th
  • Application period 3
    • Cutoff: April 20th
    • Admission notifications: April 21st-25th
  • Application period 4
    • Cutoff: May 14th
    • Admission notifications: May 19th-24th

Additional Information and Logistics

Drop off is 8:00am on the first day. Pick up is by 5:00pm on the last day.

Please see Frequently Asked Questions for information about attending the camps for out of state students.

You can follow along with our camp programs on Twitter and Instagram at @SternbergCamps.

Program Cost

Tuition is $625 per member, and $700 per non-member.

Q: What if my student is not accepted into the camp they applied for? Do you refund tuition?
A: 100%  of the deposit and any paid tuition is refunded to any students not accepted to a camp they applied for. We encourage students not accepted to a program to apply again the following year. Many of our programs are competitive, with more applicants than space available. Unfortunately, this means that some years we won’t be able to admit 100% of applicants to any particular program.

Q: What is your cancellation and refund policy? 
A: Our refund policy for cancellations is dependent on which kind of camp you are signed up for (domestic or international), and when the cancellation is received.

Refund policies Domestic Programs:

For programs taking place within the United States, cancellations must be  submitted in writing, via email or typed letter. Each camp registration is held  to a 20-percent cancellation fee. If you cancel 30 to 10 days prior to the  start of a program, half of the total fee is refundable. If you cancel 9 or fewer  days prior to the start of the program, no amount of the fee is refundable.  Registration fees are non-transferable between applicants.

International Programs:
Cancellations and withdrawals must be submitted in writing, via email or  typed letter. Up to the registration deadline of May 1st, 2018, the program fee is fully refundable. After May 1st, the registration fee is only 50% refundable, as we will have already provided payments for airfares, accommodations, and guide services.

For answers to more possible questions, see our Frequently Asked Questions page!


Contact Us

For questions about the Sternberg Science Camps programs, contact us at or 785-639-5249.

Gathering new data is essential to any field of science. In paleontology, this means collecting new, scientifically valuable fossil specimens in the field. Like any form of data collection, there are professional best practices that must be followed. Students are guided through these techniques and protocols, with lots of practice and feedback as we hunt for fossil clams, sharks, and giant ocean reptiles.

Understanding how to read the layers of rock fossils are found in is essential for field paleontology. Students are introduced to the basics of sedimentology in the context of understanding the fossil record, including the different rock layers we work in, how they were formed, and why they look the way they do today. 

Knowing some basics of camping is essential to field work. Scientific field work is often done in remote or semi-remote locations, making camping skills necessary to being able to do field work at all!

Training includes:
– Putting up tents
– Camp cooking
– Setting up and breaking down camp
– Leave No Trace strategies
– Efficiently loading and unloading field vehicles
– Environmental injury and illness mitigation
– Building and safely managing a campfire

From staying hydrated to dealing with bad weather, students are introduced to the hazards of field work and how to effectively, safely deal with them. Staff provide lessons on safety through discussion, making sure students have a clear understanding of problems that can arise and how to effectively avoid them, or mitigate their effects afterwards.

A majority of our field lessons and fossil hunting will require 2-4 hour hikes through the rocky badlands, with a lot of heat and bright sun. In order to stay safe and healthy, students will receive instruction on properly packing their backpack, optimal attire, hydration, footwear, use of sunscreen, self-awareness and group safety. Weather is typically hot during the day, and cooler at night. Preparation is key, and we will make sure your student has the information to be prepared.

Taking initiative, staying organized, and effectively communicating are all important skills for working with a team in the field. Over the course of the program, students are coached on developing these areas. With guided opportunities to lead portions of field work, students are encouraged to develop their voices, organize team efforts, and build confidence in their abilities.

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Financial Aid

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