Kansas University's museums aren't just for graduate students who enjoy dabbling in herpetology or examining ethnographic art forms of North America.
The museums provide a valuable educational resource for the general public and offer thousands of school children an opportunity to explore new worlds.
"It's a wonderful follow-up to the study we do," said Jane Buxton, a second-grade teacher at Sunset Elementary who took her class to KU's anthropology museum Thursday.
"It's one of our highlights of the year," she said.
Thousands of visitors, preschool through graduate school, take part in educational programs at the Museum of Anthropology, the Museum of Natural History and the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art each year.
OTHER education programs are planned for the Wilcox Classical Museum, which reopened in Lippencott Hall in 1988, after its contents had been in storage for about 20 years.
Museum education directors said the programs help spark students' interest in history and in preserving the past.
"The kids, I think, are just naturally interested in the programs," said Celia Daniels, public education coordinator for the anthropology museum.
"Even if they don't remember every little piece of information, as long as they have a positive experience at a museum, I think it's good for museums and their appreciation in the long run."
The anthropology and natural history museums offer a similar education program structure, in which individual programs and weekend workshops are held.
THE PROGRAMS and workshops are conducted by staff, volunteers and graduate students.
Regular programs at the anthropology museum include three cross-cultural offerings: masks, containers and communities.
"All these programs show how there are similarities in each culture," Daniels said.
Three other programs are on Eskimos, American Indians and prehistoric peoples.
Daniels said the program on American Indians is the most popular because students can learn about past and present cultures.
Ruth Gennrich, director of public education for the natural history museum, said nearly 12,000 children visited the museum last year on field trips and for special workshops.
THE MUSEUM'S program on dinosaurs, she said, has been growing in popularity since an exhibit of mechanical dinosaurs toured the area a few years ago.
"I think they get dinosaur books for Christmas or find them at their school library," she said. "They know all their names and they can say all the names."
In addition to dinosaurs, the natural history museum offers programs on reptiles and amphibians, mammals, birds, fish and insects. Special workshops also are held on bats, animal tracks, "living fossils" and other topics. Weekend workshops are being scheduled for the spring.
The Spencer Museum of Art does not offer special weekend programs for children, but schedules regular visits by Lawrence fifth- and sixth-grade classes through the school year.
For museum workshop scheduling information or to enroll, contact the Museum of Natural History at 864-4173, or the anthropology museum at 864-4245.