MANAGER OF LIVE VERTEBRATE COLLECTIONS Leslie Gordon with her lizard during a weekly live broadcast on the Los Angeles County Museums of Natural History Facebook page. Online guests and students from around the world have checked in to view the animals during the coronavirus pandemic.
BY LAURIE HANSON • December 18, 2020
This year is anything but typical for everyone, including Los Angeles County Natural History Museums.
Under normal circumstances, more than 200,000 students per year would grace their halls and grounds to learn about the natural phenomena of animals and plants, many of which could not adapt to an ever-changing world.
Unlike these distant species, museums have adapted during the pandemic by going virtual and primarily online.
Los Angeles’ natural history museums include the USC site, the La Brea Tar Pits, and the William S. Hart Museum. It is known collectively as the largest natural and historical museum in the western United States.
“While the museum buildings have been closed, we have opened new doors to natural history and the online museum experience,” she explained. “All of our virtual school programs are thoughtfully designed for learners and available for free on our museum websites.”
“Even though the interior parts of our museums are closed, we have offered new ways to explore natural and cultural wonders safely outdoors and digitally from home,” said Fidler. “People of all ages can explore our museums online through digital exhibits, live events, educational programs and activities to showcase our extensive collections and experts.”
According to Fidler, students have registered online from all over Los Angeles city and counties, the state and even a few across the country and beyond its borders. She went on to say that since their closure in March, the museums have had the opportunity to interact virtually with more than 200,000 students, teachers, parents and community members.
“On our educational resource pages, parents, students and teachers can explore our library of on-demand and school-relevant learning resources (such as videos, activities, readings, lesson plans). courses, etc.) ”, explained Fidler. “Teachers can register their courses for our live interactive programs and webinars. “
New digital museum experiences and programs include online interactive exhibits Spiky, Hairy, Shiny: Insects of LA, and Rise Up LA: A Century of Votes for Women. Additionally, teachers and students can participate in virtual learning with lesson plans, educational videos and activities already provided.
On an additional note, Fidler said families and guests can now safely experience Nature Gardens and the popular butterfly and spider pavilions, with museum security protocols in place.
Through a new partnership with Nickelodeon, videos of museum scientists and favorite animated characters are available online at www.nhm.org. The community can also follow and stay up to date with the latest museum news on social media @nhmla, including weekly live broadcasts of Lunch with Live Animals with experts from their animal care team, Fidler said.
There are live museum presentations where students meet scientists, visit live animals, learn about the art of paleo puppetry, or see real digs in action in 30-minute programs with multiple classes presented at the same time depending school levels.
These programs allow students to have questions and answers directly with museum staff and are streamed live on the museum’s YouTube channel.
In virtual museum student programs, teachers can pre-register their class so that students can join a virtual class for a live interactive program via Zoom, with the duration of the program according to grade and ranging 30 to 45 minutes. Topics include the Endangered California Condor, Ice Age Animals and Fossils, Searching for Clues from Fossils, Virtual Tour of La Brea Tar Pits, Mobile Archeology Experience virtual and a virtual mobile ocean experience.
There are also virtual educator workshops to help teachers make connections between their students’ curriculum and museum collections and exhibits. Student learning resources that are appropriate for their grade level with activities are available and include videos, student activity pages, readings, teacher guides, photo galleries and self-guided virtual excursions.
The Los Angeles County Natural History Museums (NHMLAC) is a public-private partnership between the non-profit Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History Foundation and Los Angeles County. In addition to county support, they depend on
income from entrances, their stores and coffee in addition to memberships. They also depend on donations from individuals, businesses and foundations.
“The generosity of our donors helps us fund groundbreaking research, provide free virtual programming for all ages during our temporary shutdown, and care for the preservation of over 35 million specimens,” Fidler explained. To make a gift of any size, please visit online at www.NHMLAC.ORG/join-and-give.
For Natural History Museum programs and learning resources, please visit www.NHM.ORG/educational-resources, and for La Brea Tar Pits Museum programs and learning resources, please visit www.TARPITS.ORG / educational-resources. For more general information about the museums, visit their website at www.nhm.org.