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Lineage Grant Group
Museum staff members pose with a team of volunteers from the EEB and EPS Departments, ETSU’s Gray Fossil Site, and Norwood faculty and staff at Fossil Fest. Photo by Holly Rainey

UT’s McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture is one of three Smithsonian affiliates nationwide awarded a $25,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to reach under-served audiences with standard-based learning around paleontology, evolution, and deep time.

The project is a part of the Lineage Outreach Opportunity program spearheaded by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and Twin Cities Public Television.

In addition to financial support, the grant investigates how families learn and engage with scientific concepts. In doing so, it utilizes virtual reality tools and other educational activities developed by NMNH and Twin Cities Public Television.

The first phase of the grant was a collaborative educational festival, Fossil Fest, which was hosted at Norwood Elementary School in Knoxville on November 2. Museum educators partnered with student volunteers from UT’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS) and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB), scientists from the Gray Fossil Site, and Norwood faculty and staff. Families participated in virtual reality games, board games, mini excavations, fossil identification, and other activities related to paleontology, geologic deep time, and climate change.

A family learns all about fossils at EPS professor Stephanie Drumheller-Horton’s fossilized teeth display. Photo by Holly Rainey

“The lineage grant has allowed the McClung to reach out to local families whose access to the museum, and exposure to the wonders of paleontology, has been limited due to a variety of socioeconomic challenges,” says Curator of Education Leslie Chang Jantz. “We are so fortunate and thankful to have the support of UT faculty and students, as well as ETSU and Great Schools Partnership collaborators, who have joined us to offer the public truly engaging learning experiences.”

The collaboration with Norwood Elementary was greatly aided by social worker Jordan Frye from Great Schools Partnership, who helped connect the museum to the Norwood community.

Volunteers from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences explain fossil remains to Norwood Elementary School students. Photo by Holly Rainey

“It is rare to find a community partner that is providing experiential learning that engages both parents and kids,” Frye said. “We look forward to continuing our relationship with McClung Museum because they provide such high-quality family programming.”

A second family festival will take place at the McClung Museum on Saturday, February 15, to celebrate Charles Darwin’s birthday. This annual celebration has been revamped thanks to NSF funds and the museum’s ongoing partnerships with the EPS and EEB departments. The museum will also be able to provide free transportation to the event for Norwood families who wish to attend. Gray Fossil Site representatives will be on hand to discuss paleontology projects taking place right here in Tennessee—including more information about Ernie, the largest mastodon ever found in North America.

The McClung Museum regularly collaborates with community organizations and other UT departments to provide free programs that facilitate family engagement and encourage lifelong learning. For more information about its educational programs, visit

About the McClung Museum

The McClung Museum is at 1327 Circle Park Drive. Museum admission is free and the museum’s hours are 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 1–5 p.m. Sundays. Groups can schedule tours by calling 865-974-2144 or emailing

Free two-hour museum parking passes are available from the parking information booth at the entrance to Circle Park Drive on weekdays. Free parking is available on Circle Park Drive on a first-come, first-served basis on weekends. Free public transportation to the museum is also available Monday through Saturday on the Knoxville Trolley Orange Line.


Brian Canever (865-974-0937,

Zack Plaster (865-974-2144,