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Stones and Bones

Students on an archaeological dig

Paleontology Program for Pre-College Students

This course is currently at capacity and we are no longer accepting applications during the Extended deadline.

Join the Field Museum for a four-week intensive practicum in paleontology in Chicago and Wyoming. Go into the field and behind the scenes at the Field Museum to learn how fossils are collected, analyzed, and conserved, as you work alongside museum scientists in the lab and in the field. Stones and Bones gives you a unique opportunity to participate in the paleontological study carried out by the museum.

Program Description

The Field Museum is considered one of the finest natural history museums in the world, with top-notch collections and a strong research team. The museum exhibits a wide range of prehistoric life, from dinosaurs like the famous T.Rex., "Sue," to early mammals, birds, and fish. It is one of the few museums in the world to maintain regular fossil-hunting expeditions in search of prehistoric remains. The program takes place in both Chicago and Wyoming so students get firsthand experience in the extraction and preparation of fossils critical for paleontological study.

In Chicago, University of Chicago and Field Museum scientists will take you into the labs and galleries where they work and study as they introduce important concepts in geology, paleontological methods, stratigraphy, and earth history. Learn about basic techniques for the study of evolutionary biology including comparative skeletal anatomy of fishes and other freshwater animals. You will examine methodological concepts such as fossil preparation, illustration, and description. Through this, you will acquire the fundamental scientific background needed to discover and understand the significance of fossils in the field.

In Wyoming, experience what life in the field is all about when you join the ongoing Field Museum expedition in the Green River Formation. This site is one of the world's most productive fossil sites and contains an entire 52 million-year-old community of extinct organisms. Previous expeditions to the Green River Formation have led Field scientists and his team to uncover thousands of fossils, including plants, insects, mammals, crocodiles, birds, lizards, turtles, and fishes, many of which are currently on display at the museum. Spend your mornings and late afternoon digging for fossils from the Cenozoic Period and interpret them in a way that allows you to incorporate fossils into studies of living animals and plants. In the early afternoon and evenings, you can go into town for provisions, help prepare meals for your fellow diggers, and sit around the campfire with the museum's researchers and their families. 

Upon your return to Chicago, you will conserve, catalog, and analyze your new discoveries in the museum's preparation labs, using the same techniques and equipment that the museum's own staff uses. By the end of the program, you will have completed the full cycle of study and preparation of specimens for paleontological research.

You can see part II and part III of the video on YouTube.


This program offers a really valuable opportunity to students who are interested in paleontology. In usual summer sessions, students are just taught in the classroom, but we had plenty of chances of taking part in real field work and this kind of experience cannot be acquired through usual courses.
Jiaron Q., Shaoxing No. 1 High School, Shaoxing, China -

Program Considerations

Stones & Bones is a residential program and requires students to live on-campus, attend classes in person, and also be prepared for outdoor living. Students will spend two weeks of this program tent camping and conducting fieldwork at the dig site in Wyoming. The climate on site is semi-arid desert with daytime temperatures ranging from the upper 60s to upper 90’s (Fahrenheit) and nighttime temperatures occasionally dropping to the mid-30s. There are occasional rainstorms. Students are expected work together with Field Museum scientists to set up camp, prepare group meals, and collect fossil specimens in rugged conditions. Students are not expected to have camped before, but they must be able to adapt and work well with others.

Application Requirements

Eligibility: Current 10th or 11th grade students, who are at least 14 years old. Students should have taken high school biology or geology with a grade of B or better.

Applications will be accepted for this program until all places have been filled. This program has a limited capacity of 15 students.

Students must complete the Summer Session Application and all the related requirements, which can be reviewed in the How to Apply section.

In addition to the two essays on the Supplement, Stones & Bones applicants will be required to respond to an additional essay question: 

  • Students work together with Field Museum scientists to set up camp, prepare group meals, and collect fossil specimens in rugged conditions. Although students are not expected to have camped before, they must be able to adapt and work well with others. With this in mind, please describe a situation when you have demonstrated resilience and adaptability in a collaborative, group setting, whether with peers, family members, community members, or others (max 250 words).

Program Overview & Dates

June 15-July 12, 2024

Move in: Sat. June 15
Required Orientation: Sat. June 15 - Sun. June 16
First class: Mon. June 17
Move out: Sat. July 13


Course times: 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Course Code: BIOS 10011 94
Units: 200 UChicago units, which is equivalent to 2 full-time courses

See sample syllabus here.