Xpress, the Coolest Section of the St. Petersburg Times, is the home for features, news and views of interest to young readers. Most of the work in Xpress, which appears on Mondays in Floridian, is produced by the Times' X-Team. The team of journalists ages 9-17 from around the Tampa Bay area is selected every year at the end of the school year to serve during the following school term. The current team of 12 was chosen out of 150 applicants. Watch for X-Team application forms in Xpress during the month of May.

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Dig this field trip

Fourth-graders explore the world of fossils up close by excavating at a phosphate mine.


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 4, 2001

Editor's note: Learning about fossils in the classroom can be pretty cool. But digging fossils out of the ground yourself is even neater.

That's what fourth-graders at Curtis Fundamental Elementary School in Clearwater got to do on a field trip to the Cargill Phosphate Mine near Fort Meade, about two hours southeast of the Tampa Bay area, where they sifted and dug to find specimens 700,000 to 1.5-million years old.

Student Lizzie Logan, 10, of Clearwater shares this account of her day of digging:

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On the field trip bus, my classmates and I learned about the different fossils we might find from Dave Letasi, a paleontologist who works at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. I hoped I would find a big shark tooth.

Finally we arrived. We all got off the bus like a herd of stampeding cattle, we were so excited! We scattered and began to dig, and as I was walking toward my teacher, Susan Palmer, I looked down and . . . there it was, my dream! Partially buried was a perfect, 2-inch great white shark tooth. I was so proud that I showed it to everyone. I found so many shark teeth that my new name was "Shark Tooth Woman."

We also found so many sea cow rib sections that some of our collection bags broke. And we found sea cow and whale vertebrae and stingray mouth plates. Someone found a molar of a three-toed horse. There were plenty of fossils: I found more than 40, and most everybody found at least that many.

We packed away our digging tools, fossils and coolers into the cargo compartment of the bus and dragged ourselves back on board like molasses flowing uphill. After a day of digging in the hot sun, we were all very tired, but being tired was well worth it. This was the best field trip ever.

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