October 13, 2010 has been designed as the very first National Fossil Day in the United States.
"National Fossil Day is a celebration organized by the National Park Service to promote public awareness and stewardship of fossils, as well as to foster a greater appreciation of their scientific and educational values." - National Park Service website
So, what is a fossil? "Fossils are the remains or traces of organisms that were once alive," as per the National Fossil Day FAQs page. A fossil could have occurred when a seashell left an impression in ancient mud, or you might find a fossil bone from a prehistoric animal. Fossils can be large or small. More than 230 National Park Service locations work on the preservation of fossils.
I like to collect fossils. I have some fossilized seashells that I found in California and Utah. Some are impressions, or trace fossils, and some are the actual shells, or body fossils. It's always fun to look at the rocks and imagine what prehistoric life must have been like. Remember that some locations - like national parks - prohibit the collection of fossils and other natural resources.
The NPS has a Junior Paleontologist Program for kids ages 5-12. Check out these educational opportunities. You can make your own fossils! National Fossil Day even has its own song. And if that's not enough fossil goodness, visit this list of additional resources about fossils and paleontology compiled by the NPS.
Photo credit: Kevin Walsh, via flickr // CC BY 2.0