Keck Museum's historical importance attracts educators

6/6/2007 7:00:00 AM

With its rare collection of John Mackay's silver and a wide array of minerals from all over the world, the Keck Museum in the Mackay School of Mines building is an educational and historical attraction in northern Nevada. The museum is also a popular destination for field trips, as it was in late May for the fourth grade class of Las Vegas Cartwright Elementary School.

The museum is a familiar sight for the school, according to teacher Susan Stemerick. This is not the first time the fourth grade class has visited the museum and the campus. Stemerick said the museum is a great tool for education because the opportunity to view the displayed minerals and Mackay's silver collection goes hand in hand with the social studies curriculum of the class: Nevada history.

"The museum's fabulous," Stemerick said. "It's nice for the students to be able to see things and places their book mentions."

Most of the students of the class heeded no attention to the educational value of the museum and seemed more overwhelmed by the sheer wonder and curiosity as they first entered. Exclamations of awe echoed within the museum as the students were let loose allowed to view the minerals and the Mackay's collection of silver.

The group of students from the Cartwright Elementary School is among the 2,500 students who visit the museum every year, according to Rachel Dolbier, administrator of the Keck Museum and tour guide for the Cartwright school.

Like Stemerick, Dolbier believes the historical significance of the items displayed in the museum, from the tools once used by miners and the minerals found from all over the world, fit strongly with the curriculum the students are learning in elementary school.

"The museum reinforces history as well as the understanding of why we mine materials and how we can use them in everyday life," Dolbier said.  

Giving the student's exposure to the university and to the museum can do also inspire them to attend college or develop an already existing interest in minerals.

"The students can start thinking about careers and higher education," Dolbier said. "Some students already have rock collections and they can start thinking about becoming a geologist or work in geography."

Visiting the museum can help bridge connections between the history of Nevada and the mining industry, but the museum also displays ores and rare artifacts from areas that are no longer accessible, according to Dolbier.

"They are not necessarily of monetarily valuable," Dolbier said. "But the minerals can sometimes act as a record for old mining towns and mines that have caved in or are no longer easily reached."


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