Hi. I’d like you to meet J. Albert Ervin. Albert is standing in front of a restoration of the original office of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (NCMNS) in Raleigh, the state capital.
The Attentionology Connection
The original office – that of the museum’s founding director, Mr. Brimley – caught and has kept Albert’s attention from the time he first visited the museum on a class trip when he was six years old. “Mr. Brimley’s office fascinated me,” Albert recalls. “The windows were so high I had to stand on blocks to see it!”
Albert had no idea at the time that he’d found his life’s work. After the class trip, back home in Rocky Mount east of Raleigh, Albert recalls asking if he could use his mother’s china cabinet to “start my own museum.” (Teachers take note of this attention-getting trick to encourage science study in grades K – 5)
“Mom said no,” Albert grins, “but thankfully dad built me shelves in my playroom.” Albert delighted in labeling and displaying anything natural that he found – feathers, rocks, shells, bones, artifacts like he’d seen in Raleigh.
A Teacher at Heart
Albert’s keen memory of seeing museum artifacts with a child’s eyes has been a guiding force in his present work as Coordinator of Special Exhibits and 3-D Theater in this world renown destination. “At heart, I’m a teacher,” Albert says enthusiastically.
His focus extends beyond coordinating attention-grabbing special exhibits at the NCMNS, like Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition that recently concluded – 200 artifacts from the ill-fated voyage.
“Our museum wants to be a unique resource for educators,” explains Albert, describing the Investigate Labs that museum-goers can visit to develop classroom materials and as Albert puts it, “to encounter exhibits at a deeper level.” “We work as a team,” he says, expressing the pride that NCMNS staff take in creating experiences that serve adults and children of all ages and different learning styles.
Albert takes a personal interest in every exhibit he coordinates.
He had a good model for personalizing learning in his own fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Ellis. “She sparked my interest in science,” Albert says appreciatively, “by accepting me as I was.”
Mrs. Ellis let Albert stay in from recess on occasion and design the classroom Science Bulletin Board. “I did the entire Solar System, planets and moons, making them to scale from construction paper and using yarn to show the orbits.”
Albert learned to re-use resources at an early age as well; a practice he continues in his current work. “In elementary school I made a volcano for science,” he explains, “and then I used it again in language arts when I gave a presentation about the book, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.” Mrs. Ellis encouraged presentations with visual aids. Albert’s still at it… (more…)