Prehistoric Museum, teachers team up to promote education
Administrators and staff from the USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum are working with local educators to ensure that area students are being educated while they are fascinated by dinosaurs and civilizations that once roamed Eastern Utah.
On Jan. 16, museum personnel and a group of educators came together for the first time at a Castle Valley Archaeological Society (CVAS) meeting to discuss just how to include the right type of language and educational materials in museum exhibits.
This project has long been on the mind of Prehistoric Museum Director Ken Carpenter, who took over the museum's top position more than three years ago. According to Carpenter, he had always felt that the museum's exhibits were more like trophies and less like the interactive and educational material he felt they should be.
Working to change the museum's feel, Carpenter has led a full scale renovation, changing the position of many of the museum's dinosaurs and exhibit cases. Over the last three years, the director and his staff have worked to upgrade the museum's layout, in order to make it more useful for teachers in the area.
As the state core's emphasis focuses largely on year end exams and proficiency the museum's staff have labored to create a tool which educators can easily use to teach their students in a hands-on, interactive manner.
"We are trying to incorporate elements of we have been developing."
One of the additions Dr. Carpenter is most proud of are the hand's-on displays which have been installed near the Huntington Mammoth. The cases allow students to touch the exhibits and learn in a way that is rarely accepted in a museum setting.
According to Carpenter, the CVAS meeting was very successful as it allowed the museum's staff to hear from local educator Megan Funk who has years of experience teaching the Utah core. Funk is a junior high science instructor at Pinnacle.
"We are trying to focus on what the intended learning outcomes are in the core and how to include those in the exhibits," he said. "And what we understood from reading the core was different from what the teachers in the trench are actually experiencing."
Carpenter stated that if the group had continued changing the exhibits in the manner they were, they would have created a product that teachers could not have used.
It is the hope of museum staff including Dr. Tim Riley and Lloyd Logan that the inclusion of the correct language in the exhibits will create something more concrete for area students to latch on to.
"We want people to leave the museum and say, 'Gee, I didn't know that,'" said Carpenter. "Both the students and their parents."
While the program is its early planning stages, Carpenter hopes that as things move forward educators will become more and more involved, ensuring that any changes to the museum's exhibits will have lasting benefits concerning education.
"Once we have a solid layout for teachers to see we would like to have a teachers day, maybe in the summer," he said. "They could come down and we could spend time showing them the exhibits and ways that they can use that exhibit in their classroom."
Carpenter commented that the museum's staff would like to hear feed back from the community concerning this program. He was eager to hear from any parents or educators who had input they wish to share. The director can be reached at the museum via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.