Late last month, James “Fuzzy” Randolph, curator of Waynesburg University’s Paul R. Stewart Museum, provided a tour of the museum to two Jefferson-Morgan Elementary School students who are participating in the extended school year program.
Randolph is certainly no novice when it comes to explaining to anyone of any age the historical significance of the museum’s collections. He has been doing it for nearly a half-century.
For one fleeting moment after reading the account of the students’ visit, we had this image of Randolph becoming a player in the “Night at the Museum” adventure-comedy films, in which the character played by Ben Stiller applies for a job as a night watchman at New York City’s American Museum of Natural History and subsequently discovers that the exhibits, animated by a magical Egyptian artifact, come to life at night.
If anyone could be dropped into such a setting and be able to deal with whatever causes animals and exhibits on display to come to life and wreak havoc, it would be Randolph.
But it is a pretty sure bet Randolph would prefer to remain on the university’s campus and show wide-eyed youngsters various pieces of pottery, minerals and fossils, all in keeping with instruction tied to the extended school year program, which runs five days per week over a four-week period.
The program was developed by the U.S. Department of Education to assist students receiving specialized instruction who have issues retaining information and moving forward in the classroom following extended breaks in instruction, such as summer vacation.
Kathy Cochran, instructor of the extended school year program for the elementary school, explained “we had done a lot of hands-on science. I thought this would fit in well with that. Randolph is really such a wealth of information and more people should be taking advantage of what they have there.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Some of the geological finds on display at the museum were unearthed at the former Waynesburg College Geology Field Station in Florrisant, Colo. The school discontinued the geology program in the late 1980s. Randolph, who joined in on many of the Colorado digs, told the kids how several of the pieces from there and elsewhere were forged and the significance to the communities from which they came. Some hail from communities as close as Greensboro, Rices Landing and New Geneva.
It might be tough for some to imagine students in elementary school getting excited about pieces of pottery. But we understand why Cochran chose the museum field trip to keep the student engaged.
“I will definitely make it a point to go back again and take some other people with me,” she said.
“It is such a hidden treasure. It’s a shame more people don’t realize it is there.”
And, we would expect these youngsters went home and told their parents about all those treasures they saw at the museum.
Of course, the biggest treasure the students saw at their day at the museum was not a rock or a piece of pottery, but the curator himself, who just has a way of making all the museum pieces come to life any time of the day.