So I took a position volunteering at the Denver Museum of natural history, in the “prehistoric journey” exhibit (that’s the dinosaur and fossil hall).
Its surprisingly pretty fun. I kinda just stand/sit around and talk to people about my favorite fossils. Sometimes if they hang around me a bit too long I start telling them all the random bits of trivia that I know (about fossils).
I mainly talk with kids and the occasional adult.
Here’s a few observations:
1. This position has renewed my faith in humanity. Its actually interesting the cross-section of America that not only knows something about science, but in their free time they pay to come and learn more. I’ve talked with real-tree-hat wearing good-ole-boys that really wanted to hear some cool stuff about Paleozoic sea transgressions. There’ve been old crusty people that really want to know what’s with the suture patterns on ammonites. I’ve talked with soccer moms and suburban Nike-sport-polo wearing dad’s who are genuinely interested in Eocene placental radiation.
2. I’ve learned a bit of patience. I’ve only had 2 creationists come and talk to me, and since they were both fucking retarded, they crumble when presented with real data. You want to just lay into them, but in a hall of fossils you just point at any wall and they are confronted with overwhelming evidence to the contrary of their shitty claims. No need to get argumentative, no need to even be confrontational…just say “that’s an interesting point, check out the fossils in case 3 over there, I think you might find them to be enlightening.”
I don’t really have any complaints about the whole gig….ok I do…
I really can’t stand over-achieving kids. For real.
There’s 2 kids that I volunteer with: one is like 10 years old and he knows everything about anything in the exhibit…very smart, but also an annoying fucking tool…More about this shithead later.
Then there’s this other kid, he’s gotta be like 15-16 years old or so. He comes in and volunteers with his mom and dad, but since he’s going through puberty he doesn’t want to hang with his parents because it “cramps his style”. He’s also too much of a chickenshit to hang out in the exhibit alone, so what does he do?
Yeah, he tries to roll with me. He’s asks stupid shit like “how awesome is it to get a master’s degree?”
I like to work the “ancient seas” cart, it’s a bunch of fossils from the Paleozoic, and the point of the cart is to demonstrate Paleozoic ecology and to allow people to check out some cool fossils. I add finesse, humor, and I make it a little sexy.
I got the fossils going, I’m talking to people, we’re all stoked on Cambrian fish plates, and this fucking douchebag kid always chimes in with the dumbest shit:
Me: “Check this out what do you think this might be?”
Parent and child at the museum: “hmm. Looks kinda spiral patterned, and its very smooth….”
Douchebag volunteer kid: “oh that’s an ammonite fossil from morocco, they lived in the Permian ocean…they were benthic”
Parent and child at the museum: “uh..great, thanks”
One of the things we’re supposed to be doing at the museum is engaging people, not just spewing facts and shit, but asking people questions gets them more interested in thinking about the fossils. No young kid is gonna understand the concept of Permian time, know where morocco is or why it might be important to this fossil…
I think its better to have them discover that there is a fossil in the rock, and the fossil represents the remains of a living organism, and as they go through the exhibit to check out and see all the shit that lived in the past. From there, they can formulate their own concept of the fossil record. They aren’t gonna be college graduates after the museum, but maybe by the end, they’ve constructed a framework with which to consider this science…so when they do get to college they can go “oh yeah, ammonites, ocean fossils, big spirals, Paleozoic…cool!”
If the kids are older or adults, you can throw some more facts at them, but come on douchebag kid, stop fucking up my game here. He’s just trying to showboat all the fucking crap he’s rammed into his orange-round head.
That fucking kid also farts all the time. I’ve seen him clear the Ancient Seas area of people in seconds after letting some silent, nervous, kid-fart spread over the Brachiopod specimens. I HATE kid-farts.
Fuck that kid.
So back to this 10 year old kid….he’s another asshole. I get an email this morning from the Museum saying that last Sunday one of the carts got put back all messy. The 10 year old kid said specifically that he handed me the key to the cart room and that was it.
Funny thing was, I didn’t work last Sunday since I was out traveling.
That little bitch. Naturally I ratted him out, and blamed him for everything in the exhibit that was in disarray.
In short, if your gonna volunteer on my shift, get ready to get steamrolled if you’re an over-achieving, farty, lame 10 year old.