Teachers can bone up on prehistoric times here - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Teachers can bone up on prehistoric times here

October 15th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Teachers can bone up on prehistoric times here
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By Josh Ortega
Staff Writer

Make no bones about it: a pilot program lets teachers take parts of dinosaur skeletons to go.

The Arizona Museum of Natural History and the Mesa Public Library have partnered on a pilot program to bring new Museum To-Go boxes for Valley teachers. The wheeled suitcases contain fossils, museum-quality replicas, and lesson plans for all grade levels.

Dani Vernon is the curator of education at the museum and said it brings “hand-on, interactive learning” to teachers and students.

“It was just a way that they could bring a part of our museum into their classroom,” Vernon said. 

Thanks to a grant from the COX and Arizona Cardinals Charities, the library has purchased six rolling suitcases valued at more than $1,500 each. 

Currently, the program has two separate themes for teachers to choose from: Fossil Detectives and Dinos To Go.

The suitcases come complete with lesson plans, worksheets, videos, as well as durable, museum-quality fossil replicas including a Velociraptor skull, T. rex toe claw, and a Trilobite.

Additionally, the sets come with Educator Background Information to bring teachers up to speed if they don’t have a doctorate in archaeology or paleontology.

If – or when – the program finds success, Vernon said they plan to expand to more subjects and themes. 

“We want to expand not only the content but the age ranges,” Vernon said. “We’ve already had a whole bunch of interest from teachers, so I know it’s going to be incredibly successful.”

Currently, the to-go boxes are geared more toward third through fifth grade, but Vernon said the toys inside connect the topic to students as low as first grade.

“Anybody is welcome,” Vernon said. “Moving forward, it’s really the curriculum that shapes it.”

Nicole Lind, a librarian at the Mesa Public Library, oversees collection and support services and said any public-school teacher in Maricopa County can check out the suitcases for one week at a time from the main library located at 64 East First St., Mesa. 

Lind said this program naturally expands upon the Mesa Public Library’s “Stuffbrary,” a collection of various items including cake pans and croquet sets that allows for hands-on learning.

“This is sort of a natural fit for us,” Lind said. “It’s encouraging imagination, creativity and play.”

Lind said any teacher registered with the Mesa Public Library simply needs to verify their school information to check out the to-go boxes. 

Like any item at the library, Lind said anyone who checks out the boxes assumes responsibility for any damage or missing pieces. 

“We have it itemized and there’s a price to it, so we do charge them when/if something breaks, or if something’s missing,” Lind said. “But overall, I think it’s all pretty durable stuff.”

Space may present as an issue currently, especially at the library’s other three locations, Lind said they look forward to expanding the program to more boxes when the funding becomes available.

“We’d be excited to continue it,” Lind said. “It was a little bit for us to figure out how to catalogue these because we’ve not ever done anything like this.”

Located in downtown Mesa, the Arizona Museum of Natural History is a “must-see” for dinosaur lovers. Its main attraction is Dinosaur Mountain, with animatronic dinosaurs, a 3-story indoor waterfall and a flash flood that happens every 30 minutes. In addition to dinosaurs, visitors can pan for gold, learn about volcanoes, or discover Arizona’s connections to ancient civilizations, including the Maya.

Information: arizonamuseumofnaturalhistory.org.