Campers, Composers, and Cake at Florissant Fossil Beds in the Summer of 2019

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Article by Kevin Jauregui (Geoscientists-in-the-Parks) and Jeff Wolin (Lead Interpreter), Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Hip Hop artists Joey (left) and Nehemiah (right) and GIP Intern Kevin Jauregui (middle) finding inspiration at Florissant Fossil Beds.
Hip Hop artists Joey and Nehemiah and GIP Intern Kevin Jauregui finding inspiration at Florissant Fossil Beds.

NPS photo by Jeff Wolin.


Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, for the second year in a row, offered a free geology and paleontology camp for upper elementary students. The camp was started in 2017 by a MOSAICS in Science Intern (now Education Specialist at PEFO), Ricardo Escobar. The camp meets Colorado state standards for science and provides opportunities for underserved populations of youth to appreciate, understand, and care for geologic resources. It is a fun-filled week, full of hands-on activities and experiences.

This year’s camp leaders were Karleen Mays, an intern with the Environment for the Americas program and Kevin Jauregui, a Geoscientists-in-the-Parks Intern. The project was funded by the Youth Partnership Program. This year, the Monument targeted military youth from Fountain Fort Carson School District 8 in Colorado Springs. There were three sessions of camp in 2019. Each session lasted for 5 days and each day lasted about 6 hours. The camp focused on a different theme each day based on geology or paleontology. The beginning of the week focused on broad geologic concepts like the structure of the Earth, plate tectonics, and geologic processes. As the week continued, the students focused more on the specific geologic processes that led to the formation of the Florissant Fossil Beds. Each day, the students brought home something tangible, whether it was a handmade fossil replica, a play-doh model of the Earth’s layers, or even a real fossil that the students found from a nearby privately owned quarry. Students loved camp and the staff enjoyed seeing the kids running around in their bright green Paleo-camp t-shirts. The activities engaged and motivated students and generated great questions. Some students even continued to research on their own at home (at least that is what they told their teacher). A few of the students were inspired enough to bring their families back later in the summer on their own. It was fun to see them leading their families around and spouting off their knowledge. Countless hours have gone into the planning and organizing this camp, which will continue in 2020.


During the summer of 2019, Florissant Fossil Beds hosted another camp, which was called Hip Hop Boot Camp. Hip Hop Boot Camp was inspired by the work of the Youth Ambassador Program (YAP!) which started at New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park. The goal of YAP! is to connect youth to the NPS and its mission through hip-hop music. Through the Interpretation and Education fund, FLFO was able to fund a project this year. The park collaborated with Ben Gilbarg of Big Picture Anthems (BPA) in Oakland, California. BPA utilizes the power of music and video to produce communication movements that have an educational and social impact on society. Ben Gilbarg was one of the founders of the YAP! program. Another partner was the National Council for the Traditional Arts. The goal was to find two high school aged youth hip-hop artists, provide opportunities for them to deeply connect to Florissant Fossil Beds, and have them compose and record two hip-hop songs about their experience at the Monument. Jeff Wolin, Lead Interpreter for the Monument, and Education Intern, Kevin Jauregui (Geoscientist in the Parks Intern) led the efforts. In late July, Ben Gilbarg along with Nehemiah Vaughn and Joey Lovett embarked on a journey to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Joey Lovett, also known as Cangaroo, is a 19-year-old Hip Hop artist from West Oakland who was inspired to write music at the age of 15 when one of his closest friends was murdered and turned to music as a healthy way to find healing. Nehemiah Vaughn, also known as Nuisance, is a 19-year-old Hip Hop artist from Oakland who started rapping as an outlet for his anger and painful obstacles he was facing and while informing others that they are not alone with any hardships they may be facing. For two full days, these three artists accompanied by Kevin Jauregui, took in a mind-blowing amount of information. Nehemiah, Joey, and Ben hiked on the Monument’s trails, learned about paleontology, and searched for fossils at a nearby privately owned quarry. They experienced wildlife and became absorbed in deep time, and they learned about the human history at Florissant. During their time at the Monument, Joey and Nehemiah began to free-style to beats provided by Ben. With beautiful mountain meadows and Pikes Peak in the background, they would pull out their laptop and just start rhyming. In mid-August, just days before the Monument celebrated its 50th anniversary, Ben emailed rough drafts of the two songs they created. The songs were amazing and even gave Jeff and Kevin chills! The two songs written by Joey and Nehemiah expressed the joy and freedom they experienced at the park. One of their songs called “The Defenders of Florissant” was inspired by the landmark environmental law case and grassroots effort, which saved the Florissant Fossil Beds from development in the late 1960s. The song was so amazing and inspirational, it was played at the 50th anniversary celebration and the crowd was in awe.


On Saturday, August 17, 2019, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument celebrated its 50th Anniversary. Speakers recounted the story of how one of the richest fossil deposits in the world nearly became a housing development. In the summer of 1969, grassroots activists and lawyers sought to stop the area from being sold off. They were able to delay the developers long enough that a bill, moving through Congress, succeeded and was signed into law by Richard Nixon, saving the area as a unit of the NPS. The battle to save the Florissant Fossil Beds became a landmark case in US environmental law. Over the past five decades, the Monument has built a world-renowned paleontology program and has connected with millions of visitors via interpretive programs and award winning youth programs. IMR Deputy Director Kate Hammond shared remarks along with Teller County Commissioner Norm Steen and US Representative Doug Lamborn. Therese Johnson (FLFO Superintendent) and Dr. Herb Meyer (the first and also current park paleontologist of 25 years) also spoke. The keynote speaker was Dr. Dena Smith of the National Science Foundation. Three panels featured guests representing the themes, "People Who Lived Here", "People Who Fought for the Monument", and "People Who Worked Here." Entertainment was also provided. Ranger Jeff Wolin and participants of a youth paleontology camp led a sing-a-long and a new rap song, "Defenders of Florissant," was premiered. The rap song was developed by two 19-year-old rappers from Oakland youth who participated in a program designed by Florissant Fossil Beds called, "Hip Hop Boot Camp."

Last updated: October 4, 2019