GRAY, Tenn. (WJHL) — A program that allows people to get up close and personal with the Gray Fossil Site is returning this summer.

The “Big Dig” program, which is for adults and older children, gives participants the opportunity to work alongside paleontologists and follow the process from searching for fossils to curating them in the museum.

“Guests often ask if they can dig on the site, and during this program, we can say, ‘yes!’ We worked with the paleontology staff to ensure that this would be a truly immersive experience and expose participants to all aspects of the process,” Kristine Carter, vice president of Marketing and Events at Hands On! Discovery Center, said in a release.

According to the release, participants will get to:

  • Excavate in the Rhino pit, alongside the field crew, documenting fossil finds, bagging sediment and specimens, and simple surveying;
  • Screen wash some of the gathered sediment, to separate out the smallest plant and animal fossils;
  • Learn about and see ongoing projects in the Prep Lab;
  • Work on fossil preparation, including cleaning and fossil ID;
  • Watch a picking demo and look at specimens under a microscope; and
  • Tour the collections room and learn about long-term preservation.

The Big Dig program is open to adults and children 16 years and older and takes place on select Saturdays from June through September.

Spaces are limited and early registration is recommended. For more information or to register, visit