Natural History Education Program
In June 2000, the Sam Houston State Vertebrate Museum (SHSVM) offered, for the first time, instructional classes in vertebrate natural history for youngsters between the ages of 7 and 14. The Natural History Education Program was a great success with an overwhelming amount of interest and support by the Huntsville community. The goals and objectives of the Natural History Education Program were to introduce young students to local ecosystems and the biotic diversity that these ecosystems support. This early introduction to vertebrate natural history may help youngsters appreciate local ecosystems, promote future conservation efforts, and allow for environmental awareness within our community.
Four classes were offered over a two-week period from 12 to16 and 19 to 23 June 2000. Parents also had an option of enrolling their children in either a morning (9:00 am to 12:00 pm) or afternoon class (1:00 pm to 4:00 pm). Class activities involved field trips to the Center for Biological Field Studies, Lake Raven and the Huntsville State Park, and the Sam Houston National Forest. Students gained experience in the outdoors, learned to identify different vertebrate species, and recognized the beauty and importance of ecosystems and vertebrate diversity. Students were also taught natural history through the use of the museum's vertebrate collections and a variety of classroom activities.
Promotional activities for the program began with visiting the Huntsville elementary schools and showing several live animals in student assemblies. A program announcement was sent home with the children and the parent response was wonderful. This past June we offered 4 classes with a total enrollment of 48 interested youngsters. Enrollment had to be closed by mid May due to the response. We hope to offer between 6 and 8 classes in June 2001, increasing the student enrollment to 96.
I thank the Huntsville community, local businesses such as Tex Cap of Huntsville for donations, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Department of Biological Sciences for their support in developing the Sam Houston State Vertebrate Museum and its programs. Continued support will ensure the future development of the Museum and Natural History Education Program. If you would like to make a donation to the Sam Houston State Vertebrate Museum, please make a check payable to SHSVM and mail to Dr. Lutterschmidt at Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas 77341-2116.
Alumni and community support of the museum and its programs will allow us to better develop our commitment to education and service for Huntsville and its surrounding communities.