Volunteering & Giving
June 18, 2015

Montana museum reaches (and teaches) kids

Dinosaur bones! Volcanoes! Children in Montana get up-close learning opportunities at the Museum of the Rockies, which features summer camps for kids, school group visits, and more.

Melissa Belote’s sons made a mess of her yard recently.

After attending a dinosaur-themed Family Day at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana, Bridger, 5, and Henry, 3, returned home and began digging for bones. “The good part is that they were making connections after visiting the museum,” Melissa says.

Melissa and her family have been to several of the museum’s Family Day events, which are conducted 10–12 times a year. In 2014, more than 7,000 adults and children attended the museum’s Family Days.

The museum also invites children and adults to visit during summer camps, weekly programs, community programs, and school group visits, which include free admission for all students in Montana, thanks to private donations and grants. In 2014, more than 10,000 children and adults visited the museum in school groups.

A visit at the Museum of the Rockies with mascot Rocky Rex.

“The programs my children have attended are building a strong foundation for many fields of science,” Melissa says. “The kids are always referring to things from the museum. It makes them think deeper about the world around them and about what they could study one day.”

Wells Fargo has supported Family Days and other education-related programs at the museum for several years. The Wells Fargo Foundation recently provided a $50,000 grant as part of the $4.45 million Wells Fargo Clean Technology and Innovation program. The funds support sustainability initiatives and special events for children and families.

Classroom comes to life

Christi Williams, a teacher at CR Anderson Middle School in Helena, recently visited the museum with about 120 sixth- and eighth-grade social studies students. She says her students have developed a deeper interest in the topics they have studied and saw in exhibits at the Museum of the Rockies. “The museum makes what they learn in the classroom come alive because they can touch and interact with it,” Christi says. “It’s encouraging as a teacher to see the students so interested.”

During her students’ recent visit, they watched a video in the planetarium about volcanoes, took “selfies” with the dinosaur exhibits, and learned more about the Civil War through the “Liberty on the Border” exhibit.

Studies show that if children visit museums at an early age, it improves their science and technology test scores later in school, says Angela Weikert, education and public programs director for the museum. “We do our best to ensure our programs are accessible as possible, and Wells Fargo’s support helps us do that,” Angela says.