College classes collaborate with Sheets Museum

Huntington, Ind.— An eleven-foot polar bear. A ten-foot Bengal tiger from India. A world record black marlin, caught in the Great Barrier Reef off the Australian coast. These are just three of the nearly two hundred species of animals and fish that visitors can expect to see at the new Sumner B. Sheets Museum of Wildlife and Marine Exhibits in Huntington. Set to open in mid-May, the museum showcases the wildlife collection of long-time hunter, farmer and Huntington County resident Sumner Sheets. And in the process of building the new museum, several Huntington College education and theatre majors have offered their expertise and resources to enhance each visitor’s experience.

The museum will showcase a 54-seat theatre, gift shop, children’s activity area and animal exhibits from Sheets’ collection. The project was aided by the campus community. Huntington College staff, faculty and students contributed everything from fundraising advice to video production.

This semester the Huntington College theatre and education departments made a lasting contribution to the Sheets Museum in the form of murals, research information and lesson plans. Through the College’s Enterprise Resource Center, the Sheets Museum made the connection with these classes. It turns out the timing was perfect.

The Theatre Department’s Scene Painting class, only offered every other year, has eight students who are currently putting their talents to work on murals for the museum walls. Five murals highlighting scenes of everything from the South American jungle to Canadian fishing will form a backdrop for the animal exhibits.

Mike Burnett, assistant professor of theatre, says the similar techniques between painting murals and scenery made it a good fit. “It’s a realized project with a certain amount of pride going into it,” he says. “It’s for the opening of a museum, knowing your work will be there for years to come. It also makes good portfolio pieces for theatre-design students.”

Along with the murals, Huntington College students contributed research information and lesson plans. Forty-one elementary education majors in the Elementary Education Science Methods and Materials class developed 120 lesson plans created around state education standards. Their curriculum provides specific information about the museum animals and the habitats in which they lived.

Professor Susan Burson plans to continue the project with future classes, hoping to eventually have lesson plans developed for every animal appropriate for students from kindergarten through the sixth grade. She also envisions publishing the lesson plans in a user’s guide to the museum that classroom teachers can use.

Once open, the Sheets Museum hours will be Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. — 5 p.m. For more information call 356-WILD or visit

Huntington College is a comprehensive Christian college of the liberal arts offering graduate and undergraduate programs in more than 70 academic concentrations. Following a decade of growth and development, Huntington College will become Huntington University in mid-2005. U.S.News & World Report ranks Huntington among the top comprehensive colleges in the Midwest. Founded in 1897 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Huntington College is located on a contemporary, lakeside campus in northeast Indiana. Huntington is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) and was named one of the 50 best Christian places to work by Christianity Today magazine.



Heather Barkley
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