Museum staff can help you incorporate objects from the collections into teaching, either in the museum or in your classroom.
The Beneski Museum houses the College’s geology, paleontology, mineralogy, osteology and anthropology collections, which can be a vital curricular resource for faculty across many disciplines.
Investigating and analyzing objects as part of class work:
- encourages deep critical thinking
- develops observational acuity
- sparks curiosity about new areas of study
- provides a focal point for lively group discussion
The 200,000 specimens in the collection are rich examples of primary-source materials, some of which are well-documented in the scientific literature of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Most easily accessed are the 1,700 specimens on display, but faculty can also request the use of specimens housed in collections storage. Museum staff can answer questions about the history of collecting at Amherst College and can provide acquisition and usage information about particular specimens. Museum specimens can be made available for use within the museum or can be transported to Amherst College classrooms.
During the past decade, the interdisciplinary nature of the museum has lent itself to faculty across a wide range of disciplines, including (but not limited to) art, biology, botany, economics, environmental studies, film & media studies, geology, history, mathematics, paleontology and world languages.
Services for Faculty from All Disciplines
Review and Select Objects for Teaching and/or Research
To use specimens for classroom or lab demonstrations, or to review and select objects in storage and evaluate their metadata, contact Hayley Singleton Head of Collections and Operations.
Arrange a Class Visit to the Museum
Take advantage of all the Beneski Museum has to offer by making it part of your college experience.
Use the Facilities for Study and Research
Since the Beneski building is home to both the natural history museum and Amherst's Geology Department, students move seamlessly between state-of-the-art teaching labs and the museum's three floors of exhibits.
Tables within the galleries provide a unique atmosphere for all fields of academic work.
Students from all Five Colleges are encouraged to use the museum collections for research projects. Contact Museum Collections, to explore this opportunity.
Become a Museum Docent
Amherst students are invited to apply for museum docent positions. Our student docents monitor the museum during open hours and special events, and act as a source of information for all visitors.
As a docent, you'll work directly with the greater Amherst community of alumni, parents, prospective students, PK–12 school groups, adult learning groups and general visitors of all ages. During training, you'll learn about the nature of scientific inquiry, adult learning theory and practice (andragogy), child leaning theory and practice (pedagogy), absorb many facts about the specimens on display, and get to know the ins and outs of the museum's nine collections: vertebrate paleontology, invertebrate paleontology, paleobotany, ichnology (dinosaur footprints), mineralogy, meteorites, anthropology, osteology and taxidermy.
To apply, send an email explaining your interest and background to Alfred Venne, Museum Educator.
The Beneski Museum supports Pre-K–12 field experiences, complementing school curricula and encouraging students to have fun while learning.
Our educational staff stands ready to work with teachers and administrators to develop pre-visit "scaffolding," day-of-visit onsite support, and post-visit follow-up activities for Pre-K–12 school groups by providing flexible options for building an inspiring field experience that meets appropriate educational goals.
We request that all Pre-K–12 school groups schedule a group visit in advance. The museum offers three types of group visits: guided, self-guided and "hybrid" visits. Consider the type of visit that makes the most sense for your group, and explore our field guide selection below.
Field Guides: All Ages
Field Guides: Elementary School
- Fossil Discovery (Kindergarten)
- Carnivores & Herbivores (Early Elementary)
- How Does it Move? (Early Elementary)
- Discovering Paleontology (Upper Elementary)
Field Guides: Middle School
- Dinosaur Footprints: Tracks and Traces (5th Grade and beyond)
- Vertebrate Hunting
- Illustrating the Past (5th Grade & beyond)
Field Guides: High School & Beyond
With special thanks to the following organizations for helping create these materials and allowing us to share them: Amherst Public Schools, Brown University, Four Rivers Charter School, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, McAuliffe Regional CPS, Mount Holyoke College, Northampton Montessori School, Northampton Public Schools, Smith College, University of Massachusetts, Franklin Pierce College and the Williamsburg School.