Hands-on history is focus of museum’s summer education program for kids

A few Moab youth caught a glimpse of the prehistoric past recently as educators at the Dan O’Laurie Museum of Moab presented a lesson on dinosaurs as part of an ongoing education program for local children.

“I hope after today you won’t be scared of dinosaurs,” said Andrea Stoughton, the museum’s program director, after one young girl said she didn’t like dinosaurs because they were scary.

The lesson was timely for some of the participants, who are all part of a program at the Moab Valley Multicultural Center, and for whom English is a second language. The word “extinct” was one of the words on the study list for the older kids in the multicultural center’s Tutor Club, said Valerie Jones, Tutor Club coordinator.

The children sat and listened as Stoughton read a story about dinosaurs, counting dinosaurs with the book both in English and Spanish.

Museum curator Travis Schenck helped the children understand some of the words and their significance to the lesson on dinosaurs.

“Como se dice ‘teeth’ in espanol?” he asked, explaining in Spanish which human teeth are used for chewing meat and which are for plants. Dinosaurs, Schenck explained, ate either meat or plants, and their teeth told the story.

“If they had sharp front teeth, what do you think they eat?” he asked the children.

“Meat!” exclaimed one little boy, Diego, at the front. Jones said Diego loves dinosaurs and knows all their names.

Sure enough, when the group went around the corner from the museum’s prehistory room to look at a full dinosaur skeleton, Diego knew its name.

“That’s Ankylosaurus!” he told the other students.

After learning that Ankylosaurus lived in the Moab area 125 million years ago, the students were taught about the meteor that brought about the demise of the dinosaurs. They listened intently as Stoughton and Schenck explained the fate of the dinosaurs, and were excited when Stoughton announced that they would create their own dinosaurs a little later in the day.

Dinosaurs are the third lesson in a four-week-long program, Stoughton said. Each week Stoughton teaches the children a lesson tied to one of the exhibits. Past lessons have included learning about pioneers, early settlers and Native Americans, she said.

Schenck said the programs are part of a change in direction for the museum’s goals.

“Initially, the museum was just rooms of relics,” he said. “We’re working to become more of an educational institution in our community.”

All of the program’s lessons feature interactive elements and a hands-on experience, Schenck said. Stoughton, who taught in the public school system for 30 years, tries to give the students an active learning experience, he said.

“There are a lot more activities over just talking,” Schenck said. He said the hands-on teaching approach is especially important for non-native English speakers.

“There’s not as much English spoken at home, so we show them to let them learn,” he said.

The lesson on dinosaurs ended with each of the children making his or her own Ankylosaurus out of Styrofoam and pipe cleaners.

“Now you have your own dinosaur to take home as a pet!” Stoughton told the children as they finished the project.

The museum has free admission on Mondays and admits all students of the Grand County school system free of charge, Schenck said.

“We want everyone to be able to learn without any restrictions,” he said.

For more information, visit the museum’s website at www.moabmuseum.org or call the museum at 259–7985.

ByBy Danny Chandler

staff writer