A COMPARISON BETWEEN THE EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH
PROGRAMS DEVELOPED BY THE LAUER FOUNDATION,
CHICAGO, U.S.A. AND THE FOSSIL FISH SECTION OF THE
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM, LONDON, U.K.
LAUER, Rene L., Lauer Foundation PSE, Wheaton, IL, United States of America;
BERNARD, Emma L., The Natural History Museum, London, U.K. , London, United
Kingdom; WARD, David J., The Natural History Museum, London, U.K. , LONDON,
United Kingdom; LAUER, Bruce H., Lauer Foundation PSE, Wheaton, IL, United States
of America; WARD, Alison E., The Natural History Museum, London, U.K. , LONDON,
The Lauer Foundation (LF) curates and provides permanent access to the Foundation’s
collections of scientifically important paleontological specimens and provides
educational outreach programs to schools (grades 2- 7). The public Earth Science
educational outreach programs are customized to fit the audience.
The Natural History Museum, London (NHMUK) attends fossil festivals with scientific
staff and volunteers where members of the general public can interact with scientists and
participate in enrichment activities.
Both the LF and NHMUK programs provide hands-on learning experiences to people
who do not normally have access to fossil specimens or visit museums. The programs are
designed to be fun and engaging but also to inform, educate and provide interaction.
Their aim is to supplement and complement the educational curriculum. As people learn
differently, the use of visual, auditory and tactile teaching methods are utilized.
Accommodations are made to facilitate those with special educational needs and
Both the LF and NHMUK have found that hands-on experiences and visual aids are
beneficial in order to increase the comprehension of unfamiliar concepts such as
stratigraphy, deep time, fossilization and index fossils. Both provide program content
designed to demonstrate why scientific data is important and how it is utilized. In
addition, handouts and labeled specimens help to reinforce the retention of program
The LF and NHMUK differ in terms of student participation. The LF programs are
presented primarily in schools as either a supplement to the curriculum, or as an
enrichment program. Therefore, a more visually engaging, interactive experience is
required to differentiate it from their regular classrooms. In contrast, NHMUK’s
participants at fossil festivals chose to participate, often returning yearly and relish the
opportunity to meet and talk to experts.
Post activity reflections via self-critiques, reference to learning outcomes and participant
feedback are utilized to measure effectiveness of the program and refine it as needed.
This valuable data identifies what was learned and what they most enjoyed from the
Both the LF and NHMUK provide an opportunity for children and the general public to
engage in an interesting, fun, interactive learning experience to improve their
understanding of the importance of science and how it applies to the past, present and
future of the world. Forging a connection with young people and the community is vital
for support of science initiatives.