Southwestern Adventist University had a “dino-sized” presence at the 2019 “Chosen” International Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Produced by the Center for Youth Evangelism based in Berrien Springs, Michigan, the International Camporee is the largest gathering of Pathfinders — the Adventist Church’s version of Boys or Girls Scouts — and takes place every five years. Camporee brings young people from around the world together for service, learning and worship.
The 2019 Camporee, which was held Aug. 13-17, drew over 57,000 individuals to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, making it one of the largest youth gatherings in the world.
Not wanting to miss an opportunity to inspire knowledge and learning in youth and young adults, SWAU partnered with the Camporee through a stunning dinosaur and reptile exhibit as well as an active floorball court.
Vesa Naukkarinen, a kinesiology professor, taught and refereed floorball, a fast-paced type of indoor hockey popular at the university. When asked about Pathfinder participation, Naukkarinen expressed that it was “nonstop action from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sometimes we had long lines of people waiting and “several individuals and groups kept coming back for more because they had so much fun.”
The Pathfinders were excited to learn and play floorball, most for the first time. Naukkarinen estimates that over 2,000 people played, though he believes more would have joined if participation was not limited to 12 at a time for a 10-15 minute game.
SWAU’s presence also could not be ignored with “Arty”, the university’s full-size tyrannosaurus rex skeleton model on display.
Jared Wood, SWAU Dinosaur Science Museum Director, and his team hosted an extensive exhibit including 12 dinosaurs, a Texas fossils display and a virtual reality station.
The VR station allowed participants to “visit” the quarries at the Wyoming dig which the university travels to each summer to dig for fossils.
Wood and his team simultaneously taught four classes: reptiles, advanced reptiles, fossils and dinosaurs. Participating in these classes allowed Pathfinders to earn honors similar to that of the Boys and Girls Scouts.
The dinosaur exhibit was so popular that teaching the honors four times per day “wasn’t enough,” Wood said, and they had to double the class sizes to accommodate more people. By the end of the week, tens of thousands of individuals had interacted with the exhibit and several thousand had earned one of the four honors.
“I really enjoyed seeing all the younger children light up when we gave them real dinosaur bones to take home,” Wood said.
Back home, SWAU welcomes daily visitors free of charge to the Dinosaur Science Museum. Additionally, the museum staff regularly host assembly programs at schools across the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
The ongoing summer research project in Wyoming is set to be featured this Fall in the Hope Channel’s brand-new documentary series titled “The Dig.” The documentary, which features sweeping shots of the site and a “reality show type feel,” Wood said, will give a good picture of what it is like “to be in camp, to be part of the dig.”