COSAM News Articles 2022 June Students explore local biodiversity from field to museum at AUMNH’s Curious Curators Camp

Students explore local biodiversity from field to museum at AUMNH’s Curious Curators Camp

Published: 06/28/2022

By: Leslie Leak

Why do we have natural history museums? Why are they important, and how do museum collections grow?

Rising fourth through sixth graders got answers to these questions and more through an interactive, hands-on biodiversity experience at Curious Curators Camp hosted by the Museum of Natural History at Auburn University, or AUMNH.

In two camp sessions held June 13-17 and June 20-24, campers participated in a combination of outdoor fieldwork activities and indoor class instruction led by AUMNH museum staff. The camp focused on the significance of natural history collections, how museum collections are curated and grow, the importance of biodiversity, an exploration of our local biodiversity and the scientists who study it.

Throughout each week, campers learned about dichotomous keys and the importance of observing nature through field notes and journaling. Campers took field trips to the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center and Chewacla State Park in Auburn to study herps (reptiles and amphibians) and fishes in their natural habitat. In the field, they explored streams, forests and grasslands for plants, animals and even some fossils. With nets, water bottles and bandannas in tow, they learned about botany, entomology, aquatic invertebrates and paleontology, even finding a way to cool off by participating in dip netting.

Curious Curators Camp

Back at the museum, campers participated in curation rotations, learned about food webs and further explored Alabama’s biodiversity. Through shared observations, campers recapped what they had learned at the end of each day and, at the conclusion of camp, what they had learned about the importance of natural history museums.

“I loved the Curious Curators camp,” said Teddy Goldsmith, a rising sixth grader who attended the first camp session. “We did many amazing things, such as catching insects and pinning them, catching fish and then releasing them and also going on hikes. I learned about dichotomous keys, which are a series of questions that help determine what species an organism is. I also learned a lot about amphibians and reptiles. I learned their characteristics, differences and similarities. It was a great experience and definitely worth it!”

Toni Bruner, education and outreach coordinator for AUMNH, said the camp offers a unique opportunity to experience and learn in a hands-on way from nature.

“I believe learning through exploration is key to making true lifelong connections,” said Bruner. “We can tell campers why they should care about and respect our natural world all day long with some degree of success, but when we take them out into the field, they get see the incredible biodiversity themselves and that is tenfold more effective.”

With a mission to document, understand and preserve biodiversity in order to educate people of all ages about our planet’s rich natural history, the AUMNH is dedicated to serving our community through education and outreach. For more information on AUMNH or Curious Curators Camp, contact Jonathan Armbruster, director of AUMNH, at armbrjw@auburn.edu.

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