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Article taken from The Record Journal, Meriden, CT. 

Picture Caption:

 Fossil Hunter Walter Heinz shows the fifth-grade classes at Parker Farms School in Wallingford a shark’s jaw Wednesday during a presentation he gave on Paleontology.  



By Ethan D. Mitkowski

Record-Journal staff

WALLINGFORD, CT - Hundreds of millions of years ago, monstrous sharks cruised the world’s oceans. A modern man could stand upright in their jaws, and the beasts could have swallowed a handful of children as an appetizer.

    Students at Parker Farms School got a first-hand look at these long-extinct beasts Wednesday, when fossil hunter Walter Heinz visited the school with his collection of fossils. "Can you even imagine a shark that big cruising the ocean’?" Heinz asked the school’s fifth-graders. "He wouldn’t even have to chew me, he could swallow me whole!"

    When Heinz pulled out the six-inch, fossilized tooth that once belonged to a giant pre-historic shark, students let loose a chorus of oohs and aahs in admiration.

    Using fossils he found in Florida, the Carolinas and New York, Heinz presented the students with a quick overview of fossils and fossil hunting. Heinz, an associate member of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, has been collecting and hunting for fossils for 20 years. In diving exhibitions and digs on land, Heinz has found fossils ranging from tiny plants to the fractured molar of a woolly mammoth. It’s a wonderful job, he said.

    "You never know what you’re going to find," said Heinz. "It’s kind of like treasure hunting. It’s just that hope of finding something very unique."

    He’s turned his hobby into an educational business. Through his company, Fossil Presentations, Heinz visits schools, libraries and Scout groups and presents a hands-on approach to learning about fossils. Throughout this week, Heinz made his presentation to all the students at Parker Farms. It’s a lesson kids can’t generally get in museums, he said.

    "They don’t have to look through glass windows," said Heinz. I was apt to donate a few of the fossils to museums, but then I figured, what better way to make sure they get out there and to make sure the kids enjoy it?"

    And enjoy it they did.

    As Heinz showed students fossils of Tyrannosaurus Rex teeth, giant casts of Dinosaur footprints, tiny sea creatures millions of years old, a fly trapped in amber, and a host of’ ancient shark’s teeth, the students craned their necks to see more. When the presentation was over, Heinz allowed the Students to touch the fossils. In the end, it was the shark’s teeth that stole their attention. I liked the teeth because they feel nice and smooth," said Kaitlin Monroe, 11. She wasn’t worried about being devoured by such a beast. "I liked him because I learned how they found sharks teeth," said Ryan Duffy, 10. "1 like shark’s teeth, they were sharp." "I thought it was very cool because I’ve never seen a fossil; before," said Michael Knoob, 11. Knoob said that he wants to learn more about fossil hunting, because it seems "fun"

    What the students will take from the presentation in the long run is hard to say; though Wednesday each student took home a small-fossilized sharks tooth. Heinz also gave them plenty of options for careers in the field he hopes they will consider.

   "I hope one day a paleontologist will come up to me and say "Hey I saw you and it inspired me."