CLEARFIELD -- Fourth-graders at Hill Field Elementary School became scientists for a day as the University of Utah brought the students natural history in a van.
On Tuesday, the university's Museum of Natural History showed students its "Museum on the Move" at the Clearfield school.
MoM, as the van is often referred to, is essentially a mobile museum that brings authentic experiences in natural history directly to fourth-grade classrooms across the state.
The museum facilitator sets the stage for students to work as teams of scientists on challenges that allow them to ask their own questions, make and record observations, and draw their own conclusions.
At Hill Field, students learned about rocks and minerals, adaptations and classifications of Utah animals, fossils and Great Salt Lake.
"We want to make being a scientist something that is very accessible," said Jessica Seppi, an outreach educator with the program.
"And the kids are great at it. As soon as you give them the tools and have a little faith in them, they really run with it."
Serena Sells, D.J. Duff, Charisma Ware, Steven Hickman and Jeffrey Edley worked in a group, looking at different insects and identifying adaptations that allow them to thrive and survive.
"This one can easily hide if it sees a predator," Sells said of a walking-stick insect that blends in with its woody surroundings. "That's a good adaptation."
The students all belong to Kristi Dunning's class.
Dunning said her students are proactive and like to experience science rather than just listen to lectures about it.
"Just look around the room," she said. "All of these kids are engaged. This is a very hands-on group, and to them, this is way better than looking at these things in a book."
Seppi said MoM gives the students a chance to explore learning styles they might not otherwise experience.
"Kids learn in different ways, and this is just a different, fun way to present this material," she said. "We get pretty nice reactions wherever we go."
The MoM program has been running for almost a decade and is made available to all public schools in Utah at no charge.
Seppi said the museum visits every fourth-grade class within a period of three years.
"We are on the road pretty much every day of the year," she said.
Funding is provided by the Utah Legislature and the Utah State Office of Education's Informal Science Education Enhancement fund.