By Laura Caroon and Danyel Moe
Local paleontologist Jessie Rock is known for bringing her love of geoscience (and oftentimes a large mammoth tusk) to classrooms across Fargo-Moorhead. Now, she’s working to bring a natural science museum to the community to spread the love a little further.
In a brief summary, what do you do?
I am a geology lecturer at NDSU where I teach, curate collections, create public displays and coordinate outreach events for the NDSU campus and FM community.
Tell us about your project to bring a natural science museum to the region.
Like many other community members, I have always dreamed of having something like this available for my family and students, but I didn’t fully understand the present and emerging community support of a science museum until we launched our survey last June.
Last April, I applied for a grant to fund a mobile STEM lab, which I wanted to use to present STEM activities to meet the demand of our local community. … A reporter with the Forum followed me to an outreach event at a local elementary school and quoted me saying that, “FM needs a natural science museum.”
The community responded to this statement with an overwhelming amount of questions and offers to help make this a reality. So, I assembled a small team and we created a community survey that we released on social media. Within eight weeks, we had almost 2,400 responses (approximately one percent of the greater FM area). Most respondents (99 percent) indicated that they would support the establishment of a permanent science museum in the FM area. Many respondents commented on the need for more indoor activities for families in winter. They reported that they travel over 200 miles to visit science museums and that they spend a lot of money doing it.
We brought this data to the cities of Fargo and Moorhead. Everyone has been supportive. Most recently, the City of Moorhead has shown great enthusiasm and has made introductions that are giving this project traction. We have not committed to establishing the museum in one city or location at this time, but hope to establish our location by summer 2019. The FM Area Foundation is serving as our fiscal sponsor while we await our 501c3 status and we hope to start fundraising this spring.
Our goals are:
- To establish a world-class science museum in our community.
- To provide access to interactive, hands-on STEM learning experiences for visitors of all ages.
- To leverage relationships with the local scientific community in order to design compelling and unique exhibits, which reflect the diverse talents of our local individuals, institutions, and businesses.
This is a community endeavor and we plan to leverage the expertise in our community. Due to wonderful local talent, we don’t need to outsource the design to make this project work and we hope to get the support of local businesses, institutions and individuals in our community and feature some of the STEM happening here in FM.
Why do you think it’s important for people to learn about the natural sciences?
From the amazing natural world in which we live to the products and technologies we use in our daily lives, science is everywhere and is for everyone. Science should inform public policy and be valued. We need to ensure, now more than ever, that we promote science and science learning at the local and national level in order to remain competitive in the world.
If people are interested in seeing a science museum in Fargo-Moorhead, how can they help?
If you or your organization would like to be involved in this project, please leave us your feedback and contact information when prompted at the end of our community survey.