The Sam Noble Museum invited young learners to take advantage of spring break by opening its classroom for a week of science education.
The museum’s Spring Break Camp started Monday and will conclude Friday. It introduces children to natural history, nature, fossils and more.
Catarina de Araujo, head of education and community engagement for the museum, spent time with students between the ages of 5 and 11 Tuesday morning, teaching them about fossils.
“Every day is a different theme,” she told The Transcript. “So every day, there’s lots of activities that engage the students. They’re usually student-centered. There are many activities where kids can touch the specimens.”
Last month, the University of Oklahoma named Janet Braun director of the museum where she has worked for nearly 40 years.
On Tuesday, Braun said the Spring Break Camp — now in its fifth year — gives students the opportunity to do things they don’t normally do at school.
“It gives youth an opportunity to have hands-on learning in an open environment that allows them to be creative and have that interaction in a less structured format,” she said. “Because we’re specimen and object focused, we can provide those opportunities to those youth.”
Braun said children come to the camp excited to learn, and many come prepared.
“I have been in the lobby or in an exhibit area and I’ll see families, youth, even adults come in,” she said. “I’ll see kids come ready to learn with their dinosaur encyclopedias. One little girl, she must have been 6, came in with a field notebook and a pen.”
Alexander Mann, director of public relations at the museum, said camps like this help children think about things they haven’t thought about before.
“It all comes down to inspiring kids to be passionate about education and learning,” Mann said. “Part of an education is inspiring kids to want to learn, and I think programs like this are a great way to get kids interested in something and open their books on rainforests, dinosaurs, paleontology, or whatever the subject is.”
De Araujo said children are naturally interested in the world around them, and the museum gives them the ability to understand their place in it.
“Opportunities like this give children an ability to envision themselves in the future, caring about either animals or the environment, or it really inspires them to keep learning about the world,” she said.
She said children are smarter than they sometimes appear. In one incident, de Araujo made the mistake of misidentifying an obscure dinosaur to one of her students.
“So just now, we were sitting here, and I said that the dinosaur was a spinosaurus, and he was like, ‘No, that is not a spinosaurus.’ So, he showed me what a spinosaurus actually was,” de Araujo said. “He’s teaching me things. He felt really proud that he could teach me something, and I was able to make a connection with him. I make connections like that every day.”
Braun said she also learns from the youth, and that the passion from children can inspire those who have worked in the science field for a long time.
“At my core, I’m a scientist,” she said. “I’ve always held on to that. I’ve tried to kind of maintain my scientific career at a much lower level. That also gives me a unique perspective as an administrator about what’s important.”
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