NHMU launches two new archeological investigations

Salt Lake City — The Natural History Museum of Utah (NHMU) recently launched two new educational investigations as part of its award-winning, free, online education program – Research QuestThe new investigations are rooted in archaeology and provide middle school students throughout Utah and the country unique opportunities to engage in research using artifacts from the Museum’s collections, during a time when educators and homeschool parents are increasingly relying on quality virtual education resources as part of today’s hybrid curriculums.

In the first investigation, museum field scientists lead students on a research journey to use ceramics as a case study to evaluate how synthetic materials may have impacted the societies that used them. In the second investigation, students work alongside NHMU archaeologists, and use critical thinking to gather and analyze information about indigenous life at a field site three hours southeast of Salt Lake City called Range Creek.

“Natural History Museum of Utah is thrilled to be expanding our distinguished Research Quest program with two new immersive investigations,” said Dr. Jason Cryan, executive director of NHMU. “These investigations will provide students with a wonderful opportunity to learn about archaeology while advancing their critical thinking and collaboration skills. We will continue to work towards empowering educators and students by delivering valuable and engaging learning opportunities, regardless of whether classes are online or in-person.”

Lead by NHMU’s digital learning and curriculum coordinator Merinda Davis, the Research Quest team worked with Utah educators who provided essential input throughout the development of the new investigations, as well as during their review and testing in the classroom. Both investigations are designed to support eighth-grade science and social studies standards in Utah.

In total, Research Quest currently provides nine investigations intended to advance students’ critical thinking skills by pairing students with NHMU collections and research scientists to examine questions akin to what NHMU scientists study. Led by professional educators, middle school students examine real world questions, analyze evidence and develop their own theories. When compared with many of the traditional education resources available, these investigations provide a significantly more authentic and interactive learning experience.

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 set of three Research Quest investigations debuted in Utah schools in January 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.

Research Quest is made possible by 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, visit