School’s Back!

October 27, 2010 at 9:25 pm 1 comment

Do you know that back-to-school office supply commercial where the parent is dancing down an aisle, excitedly throwing paper, pens, and notebooks in the cart? And the kids are dragging their feet behind the cart looking very forlorn? You know the one. Well, I feel like that parent. Not because I’m excited to send the kids off, though—I’m excited to get them back! School is back in session, and that means the return of field trips and school year programs. As an educator, this is the beginning of the students-everywhere-insanely-busy-but-I-love-it season.

Now is the time that teachers start to sneak out of the classroom and go on trips. They realize that the curriculum sinks in better when students are able to see and touch the materials they have discussed in the classroom. Bus loads pull up to the building and students scramble over each other, eager to be the first one to sprint down the stairs and over to the Lophorhothon dinosaurs out front… where they just stand and stare. Then they race inside—ready to get started!!—and stop short again. This time they are staring at the case in the front lobby that tells visitors about the fossil floors. “You mean we’re walking on animals that are millions of years old??!? Cool!!!”

Veteran teachers have figured out that most students tend to run around from place to place and just stare at all the “cool” artifacts. These teachers plan something—such as an IMAX film, an auditorium program, or downloading one of the GPS-correlated scavenger hunts from our website—to purposefully slow the students down and let them absorb everything. That’s where I step in. I teach two auditorium programs, both designed to hit Georgia Performance Standards for the grades to which they are offered. One is a life science program for younger grades that delves into the world of plants and animals, their basic needs, and their life cycles. The other is all about Georgia and the amazing geology and biodiversity found within. Both programs are meant to be informative AND entertaining, so I use live animals to help teach certain points. That certainly gets the students’ interest!

All of a sudden their attention is focused, and everyone’s staring at the snake that I just pulled out. A millisecond of silence…. then questions flying at me from every direction!! “What kind of snake is it?” “Where is it from?” “Does it have a name?” “Is it poisonous?”

The answer to that last question is always a solid “No.” For one, there is no such thing as a poisonous snake. (They are considered venomous, not poisonous, because snakes have a way to inject the venom.) For another, I’m not silly enough to pull out a venomous snake and show it off like a new scarf! The answers to the other questions will vary because we have close to a dozen snakes to choose from in the museum’s education collection. Other animals that might make an appearance during an auditorium program include turtles, lizards, salamanders, or invertebrates.

Another trick that tends to grab the students’ attention is to pull some of them onto the auditorium stage as “helpers”. The students wave their hands wildly in the air and shout, “Ooh, ooh, me; pick me!” They are so excited when they get picked!! Little do my helpers know that I am going to embarrass them by making them act like the parts of a plant or like soil around Stone Mountain being eroded. Some students really ham it up, though, and the teachers get great pictures.   

If you are a teacher, whichever method you choose to slow down and engage your students is up to you. As for me, I’m just glad the students are back!

Becky Facer, Environmental Education Specialist


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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Pamela Parks  |  November 6, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    My students attened one of Ms. Facer’s programs and absolutely LOVED it! They enjoyed both the live animals and the interactive style of the program.


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At Fernbank Museum, there’s much more than dinosaurs and giant-screen films. Even with our website, e-newsletters, Facebook pages and Twitter updates, there’s still a lot we’d like to share with you. This blog is an opportunity for the people that keep Fernbank running and constantly expanding, to share stories from their point of view. We hope you’ll enjoy these first-hand, behind-the-scenes glimpses of what goes into keeping a world-class natural history museum running. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback on these stories, to hear your personal experiences and hear any suggestions for topics. Happy reading!

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