The Natural History Museum of Utah is now offering an interactive version of its award-winning free online education program, Research Quest, to students throughout Utah and the country. Research Quest Live allows for students to have live sessions with professional educators from the Natural History Museum of Utah while schools are closed.

The Museum is offering this free program weekdays at 9:30a.m. for at least the next two weeks and will adjust the schedule as needed. Archived versions of each class are available for use by kids anytime.

To help slow the spread of COVID-19, most states have closed public schools and an estimated forty million K-12 students are at home. With parents now looking to fill regular school hours with education for kids, online resources are in higher demand than ever, and the Museum is prepared with numerous classes through Research Quest Live. With the new live version debut on March 17, the Museum has already tracked more than 200 households across the country opting-in to the free program. 

“When signups reached 100 in just two days, we realized that Research Quest Live was meeting a very timely need,” said Madlyn Larson, director of education initiatives at The Natural History Museum of Utah. “Now that we’ve launched the new live version, Research Quest has not only given students a way to learn, but it’s helping keep the Museum involved in the community. We have an incredible opportunity to still showcase our collections and research while utilizing our inhouse scientists to advance critical thinking, communication and collaboration skills.”

The inaugural live class featured the Museum’s school programs manager and former educator, Tracey Collins, who facilitated an investigation that ‘digs’ into the mysteries of Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, part of Jurassic National Monument in Emery County, Utah. Archived versions of the classes are available shortly after each class ends.  

“The live stream aspect was way cool,” said Jennifer Treadway of Olympus Cove, whose sixth- and eighth-grader were early participants. “The class was really clear, and I like that it used real scientific terms. My kids wrote down their own observations quickly, and were definitely surprised when the teacher’s list was so much longer. They said, ‘Wow, I didn’t notice that.’ I’ve looked at a lot of resources over the past couple of days. The interactive piece is a clear benefit.”

Immediately following the courses, participants received a feedback form, and the Research Quest team of educators, technologists, and Museum leadership, plans to incorporate feedback into upcoming Research Quest Live offerings.

“The overwhelming response to Research Quest Live tells us that this is a welcome resource,” said Dr. Jason Cryan, the Museum’s new executive director. “Anything we can do to help kids — along with their parents and teachers — during this uncertain time is a worthwhile effort. We’re deeply committed to supporting families and schools with high-quality Museum content as they work to develop new online education plans.”

NHMU is making Research Quest Live available with the help of longtime partners at the Utah Education Network and Social Good Software. The Research Quest team plans to launch at least seven additional investigations in the next 18 months.

Other online museum content is seeing increased attention too. Traffic to NHMU’s blog increased this week over last by 206 percent, with nearly 5,000 unique page views from around the world. The Natural History Museum of Utah’s YouTube channel also is a great source of high-quality educational content and provides access to the Research Quest Live stream.

First envisioned in 2014 by a coalition of teachers and learning specialists, as well as scientific and digital experts, and made possible with the invaluable support of generous funders, the first Research Quest module, consisting of three investigations, debuted in Utah schools in January of 2016. Since then, 500 teachers and their students have logged in more than 140,000 times and have used the resource in their classrooms to help meet a range of education standards including advance critical thinking.

Research Quest is made possible with generous support from the Joseph and Evelyn Rosenblatt Charitable Fund and the IJ and Jeanné Wagner Foundation. Their ongoing support, combined with a generous grant from the Utah Department of Workforce Services’ Utah Cluster Acceleration Partnership program, funding from the Utah State Legislature’s Informal Science Education Enhancement program, and a grant from the National Science Foundation, has allowed Research Quest to become a valued teaching resource for teachers and students throughout Utah and in states nationwide.

To learn more and sign up for Research Quest Live, visit https://nhmu.utah.edu/RQ-Live.