I Dig Brazil Day 18: Mass Extinction & Capoeira

Today was a key day for I Dig Brazil: when our teens start to put all the pieces together of their research, conversations with scientists, and virtual world fossil hunting to understand what happened 250 million years ago on earth. In short, why did 70% of all life die out during the Permian-Triassic Mass Extinction?

It was a good test to see how much they had retained from their weeks of work during I Dig Brazil, and how well they worked together as a group to solve the mystery.

In New York, our teens were given all of the data collected to date, in the form of worksheets that they had filled out, background info on the various rocks, plants and animal fossils they discovered, and maps of where they had found them. Their task was to assemble all the data together by period in time, to get a rough sense of what might have happened between the Permian and Triassic geologic periods.

They decided to divide up the investigation by fossil type, with one person taking rocks, another plants and the others animal fossils, and filling in the data on the different time periods. This was pretty efficient, and much of the information was completed by the time we got to the discussion portion of the workshop.

I asked them what the climate was like between the Triassic and Permian periods. Krissy noticed that the climate during the Permian period seemed to be mostly hot and tropical, while the climate during the Triassic seemed to vary more. So whatever happened must have changed the overall climate of the earth.

Then we discussed how the plants had changed from the periods. They noticed that none of the plants that existed during the Permian were still around during the Triassic. Thus whatever happened must have killed all of the plants, and perhaps new ones took their place.

We didn't get to discuss much about animals or rocks. But we already seemed to know a lot just from looking at the plants.

In terms of what might have caused the big extinction, James mentioned that a volcano eruption might have killed many animals and plants. And the presence of basalt during the extinction period seemed to support that.

Tare thought a meteor might have hit the earth and caused climate change. As he described it, this was God's way of hitting "reset."

Definitely interesting theories, that we'll flesh out as we complete our worksheets and discuss what happened to rocks and animals during these periods.

After this discussion, we got on a Skype call with our Chicago partners to talk with them about our recent cultural activities.

Chicago taught us some of the Portuguese phrases that they had learned, including several funny ways of telling someone to go away. "Go comb a monkey" was a popular expression apparently.

The New York teens, led by Tare, demoed some of the capoeira moves that they had been taught by local capoerista Ramon. Here's a quick video of them teaching the "jenga" basic move to the Chicago kids.

All-in-all, a very rich and rewarding day, even though there wasn't much fancy technology involved. Shockingly, we only have a few sessions of I Dig Brazil left to go! We'll have our teens putting together displays and presentations about their findings so others can benefit from all of their work over the past two months.