Mummy exhibit provides teaching moments for parents (+photos)

Published: Monday, Feb. 18 2013 9:20 p.m. MST

Carter Buck, left, and his children Caroline, Ben and Maya view Nes-pa-qa-shuti at the Mummies of the World exhibit at the Leonardo in Salt Lake City, Monday, Feb. 18, 2013.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Little Ben Buck, 6, presses his nose to the glass of a museum exhibit.

“What is it, Daddy?” he asks, eying a 6,420-year-old mummy from Peru.

His father kneels to his height, pointing to the face. “This person used to be alive a long, long time ago. Can you pronounce the name?”

His sisters, ages 8 and 10, giggle as he tries, before one says it right.

The Leonardo opened its doors Saturday to what organizers said is the largest exhibition of mummies and related artifacts ever assembled. Beyond personal appeal, The “Mummies of the World” exhibit fosters a powerful teaching opportunity for parents.

“We love seeing it firsthand,” says their father, Carter Buck. “It ignites their imagination in a way that it wouldn’t otherwise. They’ve seen pictures and read books on mummies, but actually seeing mummies is a completely different learning experience.”

For Buck, the museum offers a surfeit of unexpected teaching opportunities. “I ask them to try to pronounce the difficult words on the placards. It’s good for them to learn hard words and big words.”

Sandy resident Jennifer George, brings her 9-year-old son, Aidan, to expand his world view and allow him to connect to the mysteries of the past.

"We have so much now and to see the toys children used to have, compared to what they have now, helps him put his life in context."

George reads the placards and explains each item to her son. “He asks questions about how old the mummy is or something about their life or their family, and we try to incorporate how things were with his life, compared to ours.”

Greg and Nancy Morrill, parents of 10-year-old twins from Highland, see the exhibit as a way to supplement their children’s education.

“They need exposure,” Nancy said. “You can talk about as many things as you want to, but if they don’t see it, it won’t cement in their minds. This definitely will.”

“Mummies are cool cool cool!” scream 7-year-old twin girls, Juliette and Danielle.

Their mother, Dialma Jensen, can attest to her children’s love of discovery: “They are obsessed with mummies. They enjoy seeing the mummies before them, and understanding how they came to be like that. It’s a learning experience for all of us.”

Andrea Ryser came because her 5-year-old wanted to see it.

“He couldn’t stop talking about it,” Ryser said. “His little mind was so excited to see real mummies. He just rushed back back to me, shouting ‘I love mummies!’”

For Ryser, the museum scene itself helps foster learning.

“We live in an age where we spend a lot of time on the computer and watching TV and it’s good for them to come and see things like this,” Ryser said. “Life is so busy, so if there is any opportunity to teach them something that would correlate to their own life or change their way of thinking, I seize that.”

The museum offers parents a guide to teaching children through the museum, as well as placards along the way, which describe each element of the exhibit.

“The exhibit offers so many opportunities for parents to be the active teachers with their children, even if they know nothing about mummies” said Lisa Davis, spokesperson for the Leonardo.

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