During mandated school closures before and after the usual Christmas break, no one missed their students more than biology teacher Pattie Reasor. As she thought about her home room students and the junior high students she saw in the halls when school life was more regular, Reasor realized that the mandated “downtime” was the perfect opportunity to realize a dream she’d had for some years: a mini-museum that would expose all students to wonders of biology that had a clear cultural tie to their Cree heritage. Principal Gail Wilton gave the go-ahead, and the temporary MANS Museum of Central Alberta Biology began to take shape in the display case at the front entrance of the high school.
Reasor, who is in her eighth year of teaching at MANS, created identifying specimen plaques that include both English and Cree syllabics, in line with MANS’ policy of incorporating the Cree language as much as possible into classroom and school experience. She says of the experience:
"Three summers ago, my husband and I took our kids to Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump in southern Alberta. I was so impressed with the displays that the museum there had. I learned so much about the Blackfoot and Plains Cree culture. I came away wishing that MANS could be a little bit like that museum.
Over time, my colleagues at MANS--Mike Willing, Kelly Stickle, and David Barritt—and past principal Julie Hodder have brought me various skulls from animals they have hunted or found. If found, they got permission to bring the remains to me; it's illegal to take a skeleton found in the woods. I have cleaned them by boiling the bones and then whitening them with hydrogen peroxide and baking soda.
Typically, I display these artifacts on top of a bookshelf in my classroom. I like having things that the students can handle, so I encourage them to touch them. In my classroom, though, the junior high students never get to see them, so I’ve been wanting to make a display in the front of the school so that everyone can enjoy them.
Having no buses running has left me with some free time to put this display together. When the students come back on Monday and walk through the front doors, they will have this little mini-museum to greet them!"