Museum of Peoples and Culture emphasizes learning by experience

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When many students think about their summer internship, they think of desk jobs, reading and mountains of paperwork. But for Lara Kasparian, an anthropology student at BYU, working over the summer consists of digging up ancient artifacts.

Kasparian works for The Museum of Peoples and Culture, which grants students opportunities to excavate all over Utah. Last summer, she and a group of students were able to dig for ancient textiles throughout Utah.

“It’s really fun. We find a lot of surprises,” Kasparian said. “It feels like detective work that makes you learn peoples’ stories. You learn the similarities and differences (people) share.”

The Museum of Peoples and Culture is centralized on the idea that learning about different cultures involves doing, rather than reading in a textbook. Visitors of the museum can find different exhibits, like any other museum, but activities for all age groups are the focus.

Hanna Grover, the events coordinator for the museum, has run various activities, such as escape rooms and an “Amazing Race” style date night. According to Grover, there is a lot to learn about different cultures through experiencing aspects of their culture firsthand.

“Everything we do teaches about different cultures,” Grover said. “We offer so much more than a walk through the exhibits. We want people to learn and experience more of the world’s culture through doing.”

However, the museum doesn’t only encourage “learning by doing” for visitors, but also for the students who work there. Paul Stavast, the director of The Museum of Peoples and Culture, said experiential learning for BYU students is central to the museum’s purpose.

Stavast said, “Everything in the museum is preserved and set up by anthropology students.” He said the museum has long been offering experiential learning opportunities for students. Students are responsible for every exhibit that is set up in the museum, from the research to the artifacts that are presented. Some are also donated to the museum from outside sources.

“We want students who visit the museum to recognize that amazing archaeologic discoveries can be found everywhere in Utah,” Stavast said. “People think that these discoveries are made in different places, but there’s a lot that can be learned about past cultures here … they just might be a little harder to find.”

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