ESM Outreach Program

ESM Outreach Program

* This is the first in a series of reports on how we got started, the positive growth of the program, and an analysis of the downside to the outreach-only approach.  After that ESM will provide updates on the program .

How ESM got started

When the well-attended Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum was abruptly closed in 2011, it left science teachers and students without a valued service for earth science education.  The Earth Science Museum (ESM) was immediately formed as a Non-Profit Organization dedicated to getting an Earth Science Museum established or re-establishing the Mining and Mineral Museum.  While others in the group were applying for the non-profit status, I encouraged us to immediately embark on a first phase – an outreach program to the schools, teachers, and students, with ESM going to them since they could not come to us.

Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum teacher kit. Photo courtesy of
Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum teachers kit. Photo courtesy of

This has turned out to be a very successful program.  In order to begin serving schools, we  developed  two Classroom Kits: Rocks and Fossils, and Minerals, to help teach requirements in the State Standards for elementary grades.  Then a program using the kits as a demonstration in the classroom, with students identifying and organizing the same specimens  with a hands on approach at their desks, was tested. The kits were left with the school, and are designed to serve as a science learning center in the classroom.  The one-hour classroom presentations and kits are free.  Funding for the Outreach Program came from the Friends of the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum, Staples, Rock and Gem clubs and memberships.  We are volunteers, and have no paid staff.

ESM teacher kits. Photo courtesy of
ESM teacher kits. Photo courtesy of

During the first year of testing and modifying the program we were pleased with the positive response from the elementary schools and students.  At that point we were concentrating on 3rd grade classrooms as they have earth science standards to meet.  It was very clear early on that allowing students to engage in a learning experience using real rocks and minerals was a hit and educationally sound.  During that first year, 2011-2012 school  year, we served 1,584 students.

At the same time we developed outreach services to the community. Lynne Dyer was instrumental in getting community outreach for the ESM off the ground.  She focused on assisting Scouts with programs and a Mini Museum educational display.  Again, a very encouraging response from Scout Troops began. They also missed the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum as a resource.  In addition, ESM had displays at Rock and Gem shows and science fairs.

Here is a link to a KTAR interview. 

ESM program growth

This is the second of three articles describing the Outreach Program of the Earth Science Museum.  Our project grew rapidly with more and more teachers requesting classroom programs.  During the first two years, the lower elementary grades were prominent, especially third grade.  Our Classroom Kits were used to introduce students to rocks, fossils and minerals.  ESM uses a strong “hands- on” approach and students and teachers love it.  Students have sets of the same items in the kits, and identify and organize them following the presenter.  AZ science standards do not cover minerals at the third grade level, but we do, as rocks are made of minerals.

As the years continued we received more and more requests for middle school presentations.  To address science standards and beyond at this level, ESM developed a new program, Properties of Minerals.  Students are introduced to ten unidentified minerals, given a “roadmap sheet” describing each, and a test kit. They then identify the ten minerals.  The response of students to this higher level task has been amazing. The program ends with an introduction to and “hands-on” experience with fluorescent minerals.

This year we are introducing an additional middle school program, Dynamics of the Earth, Theory of Plate Tectonics.  It emphasizes the exploration of plate tectonics with student flip-charts of pictures and diagrams of the included topics of earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain forming, and layers of the earth.  Included are “hands-on” demonstration materials.

As we develop new programs for students, we help student with current standards, and go above and beyond them because AZ Earth Science Standards have not been updated since 2005.  The programs will become part of a restored Mining and Mineral Museum, which remains our goal.  ESM started serving 800 students in the development phase.  In our first full school-year we served 1,584 students.  With significant growth each year, we served 5,727 students last year.  This year we are likely to exceed 6,000.  But it’s not just about numbers.  Grants from the Staples Foundation are providing funding to develop new programs and to provide schools with our Classroom Kits. ESM provides free Periodic Table wall charts to help promote Earth Science education.  Our school program is now expanding to the Pre-School -1st grade level, as we are getting requests.  The bottom line is that kids love earth science!

At the same time, ESM volunteers increased participation in the Community part of our Outreach efforts.  This included doing more science fairs, displaying at gem and mineral shows and STEM events, and participating in Scout pow-wows and library summer programs.   The Community Outreach statistics reflect a similar pattern of growth—from 500 to over 5,000 last year.  Our exciting new project is the

ESM Understanding the Richter Scale.
ESM Understanding the Richter Scale.

The growth and successes of the Earth Science Museum Outreach Program have been gratifying.  Thanks to all who are volunteering, donating and supporting our efforts.  We have received positive reviews from Cronkite News and a recent Second Place award from the Staples Foundation for our volunteer program.

A closer examination of the Earth Science Museum Outreach Program

This is the third article devoted to looking at the ESM’s Outreach Program.  The previous two dealt with starting and building the programs and the impressive success we have had in going to schools and community events.  The 2015-16 school year is shaping up to be our best yet, with our strategy of presenting programs that meet and exceed state science standards.  With all of the successes the Outreach Program has had, it is easy for some to think this program reduces, or even negates, the need to reopen the Mining and Mineral Museum.  This article will look at the downsides to both the classroom and community events (like science fairs, scout jamborees, or STEM  activities)  parts of our Outreach Program.

First of all, the Outreach Program to classrooms is constrained to one topic and 20 to 32 students per hour or less. This approach only allows us to serve at most 6 to 7 thousand students per year.   Our Mining and Mineral Museum served 40,000 school students and scouts each year, with many displays on a wide variety of earth science topics.  These displays are not designed to take to schools.  In addition, our Outreach Program is constrained by significant unproductive travel time, often in rush-hour traffic.

Another downside is that we rely on volunteers who know rocks and minerals well, and who also are able to effectively teach classrooms of students. Finding individuals with both skill-sets who are also free to volunteer has been difficult.  Funding this program with paid traveling employees could be costly.  With the Mining and Mineral Museum we had a state funded experienced curator and a profitable gift shop which paid for the other staff positions we needed.  Training and monitoring staff involved in instruction was not a big issue.  In addition, other scientists were usually in the building and provided welcome and strong scientific expertise.

The Community Outreach Program was less difficult, as it usually involved one or two weekend days when volunteers were more readily available.  This activity was also included in the offerings of the Mining and Mineral Museum.  In addition, the MMM had a limited Outreach Program for schools not able to come to the museum, funded by a grant.

It is clear that we do need the Mining and Mineral  Museum restored.  Hopefully this can happen this legislative session with the expanded museum adding other natural resources.  Our three school programs are ready to become science laboratories for students in the restored museum.  Thanks to the schools and students who helped test and revise them.  And a big thanks to all of those who volunteer to make this program successful.

Mardy Zimmermann, VP and Outreach Coordinator, Earth Science

Hi Friends,

We want to get the Mining and Mineral Museum reopened after five years of an empty building.  The opportunity to do this is now!  Senate Bill 1440 is progressing nicely through the Senate and is well within our reach.  We need your help—please contact your State House Representatives as well as Governor Ducey.  Spread the word to teachers and students.  Contact information for Legislators is: and for Governor Ducey,  You can follow details on SB1440’s progress on www.

Thanks for helping.  I have enjoyed working with you and your students.

Mardy Zimmermann, Outreach and Education Coordinator, Earth Science Museum