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The Natural History Museum of Utah Brings "Poison!" to Fifth Grade Students

Feb 10, 2016 02:46PM ● Published by Rachel Hall

By Tori La Rue | tori@mycityjournals.com

Rattlesnakes, black widows and other poisonous specimens settled in the Draper Zions Bank Jan. 14, and Leo Jensen,11, was happy about it.

Leo and the rest of the fifth grade class at Lone Peak Elementary School participated in the first session of the Natural History Museum's traveling "Poison!" exhibit, which will visit 10 other Zions Bank branches in Utah this year. 

"Snakes are my favorite kind of animals, and that's my favorite kind of snake in there — a rattlesnake," Leo said pointing to a display. "I like that we get out of school to look at all this cool stuff."

Sen. Howard Stephenson, of the Utah State Senate, said programs like this aren't a day off of school but a way to engage students in their education.

"To actually be surrounded by science is more exciting and creates an interest so that more of these kids will want to become scientists or engineers or be in other STEM-related careers, which we are not producing enough of in America," Stephenson, who chairs the state's education appropriations subcommittee, said.

"Poison!" was created with the fifth-grade core science curriculum in mind, so it compliments the students' learning in the classroom, Stephenson said.

The fifth graders took turns viewing the six-case lobby exhibit and visiting tables where museum workers taught them about Poison and it's functions.

Plants often use poison to protect themselves from being eaten, Sarah George, executive director of the museum, said. Humans may use poisonous minerals to make dyes and even to treat diseases.

"At the University of Utah they are pulling molecules out of cone snail poisons, and they are finding that they can be used to treat things like heart ailments and cancers," George said. "Sometimes there's two sides to that coin. The same thing can cure you that can kill you."

Jayde Flohr, 11, said she was fascinated, not scared, by the exhibit.

"It's good and cool to learn about this stuff because you need to know when to stay away from poisonous things," she said. "I like this a lot, it's just weird that we are learning about this in a bank."

When the Traveling Treasures exhibits began 20 years ago, museum officials wanted to bring artifacts around the state, so state residents could see what the museum offered without traveling to Salt Lake, George said. A bank seemed like an ideal place to display the expensive artifacts because the lobbies were free and secure.

The museum and Zions Bank partnered since that time, bringing a new exhibit to cities and towns across Utah, according to George. Anybody is welcome to visit  the exhibit.

To view a complete schedule of the traveling exhibit, vist: nhmu.utah.edu/TT. Those who attend receive a coupon for free admission to the museum in Salt Lake City.

"I went to the museum last year, and I just want to say that everybody should go visit the museums that have fossils, animals and shells," Jayde said. "It is a great opportunity to learn about all these different things that you wouldn't know otherwise." 

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