Sternberg Museum of Natural History has evolved its fundraising efforts to create a new era of youth programs.

Using an online donation website, the institution is expanding efforts to nurture the scientific curiosity of children. It plans to offer summer camps with age-appropriate lessons for elementary students and overnight trips for middle and high school students.

If the $9,000 fundraising goal is met, the Fort Hays State University museum can give participants the resources necessary to get the most out of the experience, said David Levering, Sternberg's education director.

A digital camera, GPS units, tents, cooking equipment, scales to weigh wild animals, insect and preservation kits, and sleeping pads are among the desired field equipment. The tools would allow students to immerse themselves in the trips and discover the region's fossils and other natural history resources.

"I think that giving students a chance to understand those on a deeper level can increase appreciation and also increase their awareness of science concepts that directly relate to their community and to the state of Kansas," Levering said.

Elementary students will balance time in the museum and outside to avoid prolonged exposure to the summer heat. They will be on the trails near the museum, learning basic navigation skills, using a compass and looking for landmarks.

Sixth- to eighth-graders will camp on property in western Kansas for two days and three nights, take field notes, delve deeper into the various sciences and learn in a setting relevant to what they are studying in their schools' classes.

The high school students will have a two-week excursion into paleontology. The majority of their time will be spent camping, learning more about the sciences and using outdoor skills. They also will be at the museum and FHSU for lessons about fossil preparation and relevant computer skills.

The fundraising campaign concludes May 4.

"In an attempt to make the camps as accessible as possible, we're trying to raise money so that we can buy this equipment so the students don't have to bring it on their own," Levering said.

Levering, a certified wilderness first-responder, can respond to such incidents as a skinned knee or a broken leg. A female FHSU graduate student will be present on the camping trips.

Marcella McCluskey, an FHSU junior from Great Bend and a public relations intern at the museum, said the new program expands Sternberg's appeal to high school students. The online fundraising component is a useful tool to promote on social media networks.

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