Dawin Day draws a crowd to Hands On! Discovery Center at Gray Fossil Site

Sue Guinn Legg • Feb 10, 2019 at 12:14 AM

The Hands On! Discovery Center at the Gray Fossil Site was a beehive of activity on Saturday as kids, parents and grandparents from around the region dropped in for the Darwin Day celebration, hosted annually by the site’s East Tennessee State University General Shale Natural History Museum.

Held in conjunction with the Feb. 12 birthday of Charles Robert Darwin, the famed father of the science of evolution, the celebration features dozens of kid-friendly activities exploring environmental sciences of all varieties. That include the work of ETSU paleontologists studying the Pliocene-epoch fossils first discovered at the site nearly two decades ago.

Historically, it’s one of the museum’s most popular events, and Saturday was no exception.

Chelsie Latino was there with her three kids and happily attested to their enjoyment of the things they were learning about: “the bugs, for sure, and building spiders, definitely.”

Charles and Rochelle Bradley of Telford brought their grandchildren Bethany and Micah, and seemed to be having as much fun as the kids. Charles said they had previously toured the fossil site and Hands-On! too, but were out for their first visit since the two combined.

Eight-year-old Ezra and and 5-year-old Pete Mazuelos’ mom brought them down for the celebration from Gate City, and couldn’t resist snapping their photo with the scientist of the hour, Darwin himself — as portrayed by ETSU Biology Professor Karl Joplin.

Joplin’s associate in the ETSU Department of Biological Studies, professor T.J. Jones, and Guthrie, his son and assistant at the Darwin Day spider center, were having an equally good time — teaching folks about spiders’ external digestion process, dispelling myths about spider anatomy propagated each year around Halloween and sharing spider fist-bumps with a waving, eight-finger release.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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