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Career Profiles

Susan Stover

Museum Educator

Susan Stover was a science instructor with The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and is now back in school at the University of Kansas to earn a M.S. degree in geology. Most museum professionals have a M.S. or Ph.D. degree. In college she had majors in both geology and anthropology, and since then has done paleontology work with the University of Nebraska State Museum and archaeology work with the University of Arizona State Museum. Both paleontological and archaeological excavation require long days outside, often spent digging, sifting sediment, and mapping. For Susan, it was exciting to uncover something that had been buried for thousands to millions of years and piece together a story of the past.

As a Museum Educator, Susan spent much of her day teaching science topics, both to classes visiting the museum and at local schools. Topics included earthquakes and volcanoes, plate tectonics, fossil preparation, prehistoric life, and evolution. Museum educators also teach teachers, museum volunteers, and the general public, through workshops, lectures, and field trips. Children's classes on a variety of topics are taught on the weekends. In past classes, junior and senior high students have done geologic mapping, fossil hunting, gold panning, and a beach clean-up where they recorded the amount and type of trash found. Museum educators organize and run special events, such as museum sleep-overs (one was titled "I Slept with the Dinosaurs"), and trips for museum members to study geology, wildlife and cultures. They also plan and run a hands-on activity room for children visiting the museum, and develop programs to accompany new exhibits. Susan would also write grant proposals to support special events. For a museum educator, communication and organizational skills are as important as the scientific knowledge.

What Susan liked best about working in a museum was the opportunity to share her love of natural science with others. It is rewarding to see kids get excited about touching a meteorite or a fossil bone, and to listen to what they know and wonder about the earth. Instructors have the wealth of museum collections to use in teaching science and are encouraged to develop new ways to teach a topic. Susan was continually learning as she worked with museum curators and other scientists. At a natural history museum there is always something interesting and exciting going on.

Susan and her husband have three young daughters. Although her work and studies often demand a lot of her time, it has also given her daughters good experiences. They have gone on trips, explored behind-the-scene collections, handled live animals, and gotten to know other scientists. If you are interested in working with a museum, she recommends you take a class at a local museum or offer to volunteer. Also try volunteering with a paleontologist or geologist at a local college or university. They sometimes need a lab or field assistant and will use interested students.