Seventh-grade students from Cuba Middle School visited the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science this month as part of their biological evolution unit in class. Students traveled through time as they went through the museum exhibits. They saw what is now called New Mexico throughout history, including a prehistoric era when it was the home of dinosaurs and an era when it was under a sea.
In addition to touring the museum, students took a class there. Museum educators gave each group of two students a mammal skull (or a replica of a mammal skull) to observe. After several minutes studying the skull, each group reported its observations to the rest of the class. The museum educators then taught the class a new scientific concept based on the observations. Afterward, students were able to use their own observations about the animal’s skull shape to make inferences about its diet and habitat.
The University of New Mexico SEPA team loved this teaching approach because we know that all students are scientists whenever they observe the world around them and draw logical conclusions from those observations. Armed with their own capacity for observation and reasoning, students readily absorb formal education and learn the vocabulary associated with being a scientist.
Sound interesting? Come see what it’s all about! On the first Sunday of every month, the museum offers free admission for all New Mexico residents. If there is a seventh-grade Cuba Middle School student in your family, you can ask him or her to serve as your tour guide. Sixth- and eighth grade students, don’t worry! Your turn will come this spring.