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August 26, 2009 > Unearthing the Ice Age of Irvington

Unearthing the Ice Age of Irvington

By Joyce Blueford

The Tri City area has many natural geological wonders that the Math Science Nucleus, a non profit organization, is bringing to the attention of the community through the Children's Natural History Museum. This series of articles, beginning in the July 29, 2009 issue of Tri-City Voice newspaper, will allow the reader to understand their worldwide significance. If interested in helping out with the unfolding concept plan please contact the author (

Children's Natural History Museum - Preserving the Fossils

The Math Science Nucleus (MSN) has served the public since 1982 as a leader in science curriculum development. They have worked in our nation's schools to include science content to inspire future generations. In the 1990's the Math Science Nucleus launched a website to provide teachers around the world with free science curriculum developed by research scientists. In 1997 the World Bank partnered with MSN to help Eritrea, Africa gain access to the material through internet technology. In 1999 MSN partnered with Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District to manage the Tule Ponds at Tyson Lagoon Wetland Center in Fremont.

In August 2004 MSN was asked by the Gordon Family if they were interested in housing the collection from San Lorenzo School District which included not only the Irvington fossils but also an extensive rock collection, numerous books, a collection of stuffed animals, and display cases. MSN accepted the offer and six truck loads later there were 30 display cases encrusted in eight years of dust, 150 boxes with an assortment of fossils, animals, rocks, books, and posters, a 400-pound mammoth skull, and 1,600-pound moose head. Volunteers at the MSN worked for months to arrange the collection as an interactive museum for children to learn and appreciate the natural history of their hometown.

The museum started in one room, now the Wesly Gordon Fossil Hall. By 2005, an expansion was necessary and the current Nature Hall separated fossils from modern animals. A year later, MSN expanded the museum again and created the Rock and Mineral Hall and Hall of Small Wonders. In 2007, Ken Miller, a resident of Fremont donated a planetarium dome and projector; the museum expanded yet again and now includes the Miller StarDome.

Wesly-Gordon Fossil Hall

This exhibit features fossils discovered by Wes Gordon, a teacher and leader of the Boy Paleontologists. Specimens were provided by the Gordon Family of Hayward and the Math Science Nucleus' collection was added. The collection not only includes fossils, but it records their discovery through diaries, Life Magazine photographs, and news clippings over 60 years.

Irvington Fossils:
This fossil collection was excavated in the 1940's-60's in a quarry located in Irvington (Fremont) by a group of young boys. The collection of fossils includes mammoths, sabertooth cats, short faced bears, dire wolves, camels, western horses, sloths, and pronghorn antelopes.

Visitors can take a look at modern vertebrates including fish, birds, mammals, fish, and amphibians and modern skulls to compare with the fossil group.

Environments through Time:
Displays show what organisms looked like in the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic.

Boy Paleontologists Room:
The young boys who uncovered the largest collection of ice age fossils in the San Francisco Bay area spent over 365 days working in rough terrain, finding an unmatched collection of Pleistocene fossils. Their hats, hammers, and other pieces of equipment are on display.

Minerals and Rocks Hall

Visitors can take a journey through the Rock Cycle and see how the elements combine to form some of the world's most beautiful minerals. Compare igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. The minerals are divided into their chemical species. We have many more specimens in the collection that are not displayed.

Tools of Early Humans

This exhibit has some of the tools of California Indians including spears, arrowheads, fishing weights, and mortars and pestles. These tools are made of local rocks and helped the Indians to survive in California for thousands of years. Many of these specimens were collected by Wes Gordon and are real artifacts of Indians from California.

Hall of Small Wonders

Look through various microscopes and see microscopic creatures including diatoms, foraminifers, and radiolarians that become fossils. These aquatic creatures have fascinating structures that are visible only under a microscope. Also view different sands from around the world that contain microfossils. There is also a display of microscopes used in education since the 1930's.

Hall of Stars

This hall features the Miller Stardome (donated by Kenneth Miller of Fremont) where you can view the nighttime sky. The dome is like a large umbrella that encapsulates up to 25 children. The projector helps an instructor trace constellations. The "Walk through Time" Exhibit donated by the Foundation for Global Community is on display. View information on how the Earth formed from stars and evolved to include life as we know it.

Nature Hall

This exhibit includes specimens of birds, fox, rabbits, bears, mice, bats, and more. Common water birds are also on display. These specimens help us understand the food chain and how it may be an important factor in the extinction of organisms. Many of these specimens, over 100 years old, are from the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco before it was an art museum.

If interested in visiting the museum, booking a field trip or birthday party, please consult our website for hours and events:

Next article: A look into how the City of Fremont and Math Science Nucleus are working together to reopen the fossil-rich Bell Quarry location to the public.

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