“That’s so cool!”
It’s the phrase heard most at camps by Shelli Campbell, the Natural History Museum of Utah’s Youth & Family Programs coordinator. Whether it’s one of the Museum’s trademark Summer Camps, an After School Adventure Club, or a Saturday Discovery Class, the Museum is regularly abuzz with the exuberance of kids engaging with hands-on learning activities that reveal and illuminate new concepts and ideas.
For many, museums are little more than buildings filled with objects. But at NHMU, Shelli and her programming staff work tirelessly to make the Museum not just a place, but a lively experience.
As a collections and research institution, NHMU is a proud steward of science and learning at all levels. That sentiment is held not just by the paleontologists, archaeologists, and other scientists that work at the Museum, but by Campbell’s youth programming team that is helping inspire a new generation of scientists starting on that first visit to the Museum.
“We had one camper earlier this year who wouldn’t leave his mom’s side when he first got
here,” says Campbell. “His mom came in to drop him off and he wouldn’t leave her leg. Before long he was so engaged with the activities that he didn’t even notice his mom leaving.”
It’s a scene that Campbell says she sees over and over. Where kids are nervous and parents often hesitant to leave each other’s side on that first day of camp or class, before the Museum’s unique learning atmosphere, carefully fostered by Campbell and her team, captivates and exhilarates the new arrivals.
NHMU prides itself on being a steward of education for all communities and guests of all needs. It is a mission that the Youth & Family Programs staff takes to heart in designing curriculum that carefully and creatively addresses unique learning needs any one child may have. “Not only does all our staff go through multiple, extensive background checks, but they are trained in different learning strategies to make sure our kiddos are getting the most out of these programs,” Campbell says. “Our classes max out at 16 participants and we use a 6 to 1, or 8 to 1 student to teacher ratio depending on the age group.” One of the things Campbell is most excited for is the roll out of fall youth programming she and her staff have worked to build and enhance. Drawing inspiration from the most successful of her sold-out NHMU Summer Camps, Campbell and her staff have built a robust suite of programs including Saturday Discovery Classes and After School Adventure Clubs. These include “Meet the Vikings” for second and third graders, which is just $65 per child and gives kids the chance to learn all about Norse mythology, build their own shields, and meet the Vikings of the Museum.
After School Adventure Clubs are a 90-minute class that run once a week for three consecutive weeks, starting at $60. Saturday Discovery Classes are two-hour classes held on various Saturdays throughout the year and start at just $20. There can only be one thing said about a learning experience that robust and at that price—that’s so cool! For more information, visit nhmu.utah.edu/youth-classes.