Oklahoma's number one blog for natural and cultural history.

 

April Showers Bring More Than Just May Flowers!

Sure, April showers may bring May flowers – but that’s not all! April also brings one of the greatest weeks of the year, Volunteer Appreciation Week. Although the national Volunteer Appreciation Week doesn’t kick off until April 6, the celebration has already begun at the Sam Noble Museum with the naming of the 2014 Volunteer of the Year!

 So, who’s this year’s deserving winner?

Don Batchelor

Meet Don Batchelor, one of 250 active volunteers working in collections, offices and with the public. Batchelor has been a docent in the Hall of Ancient Life for 14 years and loves sharing his interest in single-cell organisms with our guests.

“I could spend an hour extolling the satisfaction I get at the museum,” Batchelor said, “and I appreciate the opportunity to use 70 years of experience in the field.”

 

The Hall of Ancient Life, where Batchelor volunteers

 According to volunteer coordinator Genevieve Wagner, the Volunteer of the Year Selection Committee, made up of former recipients, selected Batchelor because of his long service and dedication to the public.

 What’s the big deal, you ask? Our volunteers, of course!

 “It is important to acknowledge the members of our volunteer community as each one of them makes a difference to the museum,” said Wagner. “The volunteer of the year award is part of that acknowledgment.” 

Museum director Michael Mares agrees. 

“The Sam Noble Museum would not be able to offer our public anywhere near the quality or quantity of programs that our volunteers make possible,” Mares said. “They are a most important part of the museum experience, influencing collections, exhibits, public programs, research and every other area of museum activity. “

 We hope that answered your question. Now, who’s ready to celebrate?!

  

Every year, the Sam Noble Museum hosts its Volunteer Appreciation Dinner in April to thank all of the volunteers that pour their passion into our organization. This year, the dinner will be held on Thursday, April 10 and will serve as an opportunity to recognize Batchelor for his contributions. Our community partners at Arvest Bank sponsor volunteer Appreciation Week and the Volunteer Dinner.

 Thinking about becoming a volunteer yourself? Feel free to check out our volunteerism page! And remember, the next time you stop by the museum, be sure to congratulate Mr. Batchelor and thank one of our many volunteers for a job (very) well done! 

IMLS National Medal Q&A

Recently, we’ve been posting a lot about the Institute for Museum and Library Service’s (IMLS) 2014 National Medal award on our social media sites. Though if you’re not savvy to the museum or library scene, all of this news could easily become overwhelming. That’s why we’ve decided to do a little Q&A session to help our friends and fans understand what the National Media is and why we can’t stop talking about.

 Q: What is the Institute for Museum and Library Service?

A: According to the IMLS website, “the Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums.” Ultimately, this organization seeks to inspire educational institutions to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement.

Q: So what’s an IMLS National Medal?

 A: The National Media for Museum and Library Services honors outstanding institutions that make significant and exceptional contributions to their communities. Basically, this award is given each year to ten libraries and/or museums that have gone above and beyond the call of duty in terms of community outreach. For a few examples, check out the 2013 National Medal video below.

Q: How does it work?

A: Each year, hundreds of nominations from all across the country are submitted to IMLS. Only thirty finalists are chosen. We are so pleased to announce that the Sam Noble Museum was recently selected as a finalist for 2014, which is also the National Medal’s 20 anniversary! Isn’t that incredible?

 

Q: Why is winning so important?

A: The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor for commending museum and libraries for their community service efforts. In fact, this award is so highly revered, last year the ten winners were recognized by first lady Michelle Obama at a White House ceremony in Washington D.C. Below is a glimpse of the ceremony.

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 Q: So where do I fit in?

 

A: Because the IMLS National Medal is founded on community outreach, we want to encourage all of our friends and fans to share their favorite experiences with our museum on the IMLS Facebook page. Without Oklahoma’s ongoing support, we would not be where we are today, and we hope that your stories will show the IMLS what a tremendous support system our great community is.

Fossil Fuel Fund Drives Oklahoma Students

“The only source of knowledge is experience.” – Albert Einstein

Learning isn’t just for the classroom

 Think back to your days in elementary school. Can you recall all the stages of the water cycle? Which book your teacher read in the fourth grade? What about the sixth president of the United States?

 But you can remember seeing the zoo’s giraffes on your second grade field trip or zipping down the pole during a trip to the local fire department. According to Scientific American, the human brain can hold a million gigabytes of memory. So, what gives? Chances are, some of your most memorable experiences happened outside out of the classroom – and that’s why experiential learning programs are so important.

 

Experiential learning is an integral part of education

In recent years, Oklahoma schools have faced increasing difficulties obtaining funds for supplemental learning experiences like field trips.  Higher operating costs related to energy, transportation and insurance, among others, are forcing many schools to eliminate field trips and other experiential learning programs. 

 To demonstrate his commitment to the Sam Noble Museum and its educational programs, OU President David L. Boren committed $10,000 to the museum in 2007.  These funds established the Fossil Fuel Fund (FFF), which provides scholarships to low-income, high-poverty area schools in Oklahoma. 

A thank you note from a FFF recipient

 Today, the FFF continues to provide scholarships to Oklahoma schools. Last year alone, 55 schools applied and $12,204.86 in reimbursements was distributed. That’s 2,949 students!

Each scholarship provides an average of $400 in transportation reimbursement to the school, and allows approximately 40 students to experience the top-notch galleries, exhibitions and artifacts found only at the museum. 

Students take in the amazing Hall of Ancient Life

 The FFF also provides a classroom-based educational program that students can enjoy during the visit. These specialized classroom programs are designed to complement classroom curricula and are correlated to current Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) learning objectives for the state of Oklahoma. 

A glimpse of our PASS-driven educator’s guide

“To see the wonder, the awe, the interest in my students as they viewed the exhibits, to watch them interact and answer the educator, and to experience their growth in social/community skills was so satisfying for me,” said one ninth-grade teacher from Ada Junior High.

Schools who visit the museum on a scholarship need only to provide the discounted student admission fee ($1.75 per student) for their entire field trip experience.  In situations where the need is dire, the per student admission fee can be reduced waived.  Funds are disbursed on a first come, first served basis. 

“As a science museum, we understand that exploration, discovery and direct experience are powerful learning opportunities,” said Jes Cole, head of museum education. “We strive to make the museum accessible to all Oklahomans, and the Fossil Fuel Fund is one important way we can accomplish this goal.”  

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, life, physical, and social science occupations are projected to add 190,800 new jobs between 2010 and 2020 as they grow by 15.5 percent.

With science occupations constituting such a major portion of America’s future job market, it is imperative that we invest in today’s students. If you would like to make a contribution, either on behalf of an organization or individually, please contact Pam McIntosh at (405) 325-5020. Or, if you would like to apply for scholarship assistance, please fill out the application on our website.

Help us make science unforgettable. Contribute to the Fossil Fuel Fund.

Step Outside Ordinary

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The 2013 OSA campers

Summertime: lazy days by the pool, sleeping until noon and all the video games your controller can handle. It’s the overworked student’s paradise. In the summer of 2013, however, 14 Oklahoma middle school students left ordinary behind to take part in a most amazing adventure. The Oklahoma Science Adventure (OSA) camp, a weeklong educational endeavor operated by the Sam Noble Museum’s ExplorOlogy® program, allows students to discover alongside professional scientists, without paying a cent.

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Campers at the ropes course 

That’s right, without paying a cent. Thanks to partial funding by the Whitten-Newman Foundationthe program is free for participants. During OSA, students have the opportunity to conduct field research, conquer the University of Oklahoma’s ropes course, canoe down the Illinois River and sleep beneath the world’s largest Apatosaurus in the museum’s Hall of Ancient Life. What more could you ask for? 

Last summer, students also investigated a unique Oklahoma fossil site known as White Mound, an ancient shallow ocean where, more than 400 million years ago, an assortment of animals, including trilobites, crinoids, brachiopods and corals, lived. Nick Czaplewski, the staff curator of vertebrate paleontology, assisted students in collecting a variety of fossils. Based on their understanding of modern animals and fossil evidence, they constructed an example of what an ancient ecosystem might have looked like.

 

Fossils at White Mound

Although OSA promises new friends and fun-filled memories, it’s about much more than that. The program affords budding scientists a chance to gain hands-on experience, awarding them awareness and confidence in their own abilities. For many, this revelation generates the initial spark of a lifelong passion.

“It really surprised me how hands-on it was. It was a good surprise,” recalled Abby Holden, of Claremore, Okla. Holden explained that science used to be a sore subject for her in the classroom, but after OSA she feels enthusiastic and confident.

Holden conducts ecology research

 According to Holden and several other students, field experience ranks high above classroom learning when it comes to both education and enthusiasm. According to Clay Dominy of Shawnee, Okla., there is no comparison.

 “If you want to be in paleontology, learning in a classroom does not prepare you. They don’t teach you about geographical maps. Out in the field, though, you can see everything you need to know,” Dominy said.

 

Moxley gets up close and personal with nature

Another camper, Ella Moxley, a seventh-grader from Norman, Okla., said she never realized how hands-on science could be until spending a few days in the field, where she learned to overcome her squeamishness towards insects. Moxley learned first-hand that to be a scientists, you’ve got to be willing to get down in the trenches of nature.

“I would recommend OSA to any science enthusiasts who are definitely not afraid to get dirty,” Moxley said.

Of course, OSA isn’t all work. Moxley and Holden both described their canoe trip down the Illinois River as the pinnacle of their journey. According to Dominy, however, jumping into the ponds and scooping up tadpoles proved to be the most fun.

Dominy hunts for tadpoles

So whether you’re hoping to have the time of your life, explore an interest or escape the mundane routine of long summer days, OSA is for you. Don’t let this summer be just another series of wasted days by the television. Applications will be available in the winter of 2013, and we hope you’re ready to take the plunge. Join us, and step outside ordinary.