Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 1:45 PM


CLARY, Renee M., Geosciences, Mississippi State University, P.O. Box 1705, Mississippi State, MS 39762, MOE HOFFMAN, Amy, Geosciences, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762 and WANDERSEE, James H., Educational Theory, Policy, and Practice, Louisiana State University, 223 F Peabody Hall, Baton Rouge, LA 70803,

The Dunn-Seiler Museum (DSM) at Mississippi State University was established in 1946 to preserve and care for the extensive geologic collections made by faculty and staff. Throughout the years, the DSM collections grew to holdings of approximately 50,000 fossil vertebrate, invertebrate, and plant specimens from around the world. While the geologic collections are important for researchers, the DSM’s small public museum directly impacts more people through informal museum visits, school tours, and K-12 competitions that promote public understanding of geologic time, fossilization, and sustainability. The museum is arranged to showcase minerals, rocks, and fossils that document the planet’s 4.6 billion year history, and also features an exhibit on the geology of the state. During the academic year, multiple groups visit the museum, with annual visitor numbers estimated to be above 1000. The DSM also facilitates tours for teacher professional development program groups, and K-12 school groups. A tour typically incorporates both an overview of the museum and a collecting excursion in one of the MSU campus Cretaceous chalk outcrops.

To improve public understanding of the Geosciences, the DSM implemented two outreach competitions for Mississippi’s K-12 students beginning in 2010. The DSM became a partner in National Fossil Day, and sponsors an annual art and story contest about extinct life forms. A hadrosaur was used as the competition’s theme in 2012, since the DSM’s dinosaur bones that were on loan to another research facility were returned to the museum and publically displayed. Subsequent competitions have focused on the current National Fossil Day logo (e.g., mosasaur, mammoth, and Paleozoic life for 2013). A similar K-12 competition and outreach event was developed for the DSM in conjunction with Earth Day. Using a sustainability theme, the contest encourages students to find a creative use for an item that would otherwise be thrown away. Past competitions incorporated plastic water bottles, bottle caps, and telephone books. While small in size, the DSM effectively promotes public geoliteracy by effectively addressing the Big Ideas of the Earth Science Literacy Principles (2010) through displays and outreach activities.