First Person

A Day at the Museum


For more than 30 years, the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum has been providing students and families with epic animal adventures.

The Real Scoop

By Abigail Beyeler Beutler (BS ’05) | Cottonwood Heights, Utah

I was a new freshman on a date at the Bean Museum. I’m not always at one with nature or animals, but I was determined to come out looking smart and attractive. So I pretended I was a biological catalog of knowledge. I made intelligent observations about birds and predators. I asked astute questions about butterflies and insects. It was hard work, and I soon ran out of impressive comments. Finally we stood—heads tilted—contemplating a wilderness display. In my most intelligent tone I queried, “Hmm, do you think the dirt is really real?” I do not remember my date’s initial reply, but he stopped midsentence, laughed, and asked, “Did you just ask if the dirt is real?”

The cat was out of the bag. Or rather, the stuffing was out of the cat.

A Buggy Bucket List

By Lori Baker Walker (BA ’79) | Woodland Hills, Utah

When I was working as an ASL interpreter and aide in a kindergarten classroom, our class took a field trip to the Bean Museum. At one point our guide pulled out a cabinet drawer full of live Madagascar cockroaches. I don’t like our little native cockroaches, and these looked like they were 10 times the size!

Most of the children wanted nothing to do with the bugs. This is when the teacher took the lead, reaching into the box to show the kids they didn’t need to be afraid. I hung back; there was no way I was going to touch any of those creepy-crawlies.

Then the teacher looked me in the eye and said, “If I have to touch them, you have to touch them.” So I reluctantly obliged.

It was never an item on my bucket list, but I can now truthfully say that I have petted a cockroach.

Hail Mary Catch

By Shanna N. Dungan (’15) | Provo

When I first started working at the Bean Museum, the one creature I hesitated to touch was the tarantula, Mary Jane. One evening, however, a young family asked to see the tarantula, so I plunged my hand into the terrarium. As I showed Mary Jane to the family, their small daughter asked to hold her, and eager to get Mary Jane off of me, I naively allowed her to switch hands. The second Mary Jane decided to raise one of her hairy legs, the child panicked and violently shook her arm. Suddenly eight fuzzy legs were cheerfully waving at me as Mary Jane sailed through the air past my nose.

Without thinking I threw myself onto my stomach, arms outstretched, as a screech shot from my lungs. It was a catch worthy of the hall of fame as Mary Jane touched down softly in my cupped hands. In the background I could hear the mother crowing, “I got that on film!” After that the tarantulas quickly became one of my favorite show creatures and, I’m happy to report, have stayed safely in my hands.

An illustration of a woman with a camera filming a spider flying through the air with a young girl screaming and an older girl diving to catch the spider.

Illustration by Travis Foster

Out of the Mouth of Babes

By Courtney Carr Davies (BA ’93, MS ’94) | San Diego

For years I have loved taking our kids to the Bean Museum, letting their curious minds explore and discover. Of course, they may not find all the answers they’re looking for. At the end of one of the museum’s fantastic reptile shows, the host asked the audience if they had any questions. My 3-year-old son had been kneeling on the floor, enthralled by the slithering and creeping creatures. His hand was the first to shoot up. I expected a brilliant inquisition on the skeletal structure of a snake or the lifespan of an iguana, but instead he asked, “When will the resurrection happen?”

Everyone laughed, while secretly hoping this student might possess some sort of inside knowledge on the Second Coming. But, alas, he just smiled and clarified, “Does anyone have any questions about animals?”

A Liger Lesson

By Carmen Purnell Heap (BS ’11) | Moodus, Conn.

When I was in high school, Napoleon Dynamite was all the rage. I even had a T-shirt with Napoleon’s drawing of a liger, which I thought was a mythical creature. Then one rainy Saturday my sophomore year at BYU, a group of friends was trying to decide what to do. Someone brought up the Bean Museum and pitched Shasta the liger as a selling point. I insisted they were crazy and said there was no such thing as a liger. After arguing back and forth, I bet ice cream for the whole group on it. Lesson learned. Thank you, Shasta (who, by the way, does not look like Napoleon’s drawing), for a fun afternoon that ended in ice cream with friends.

An illustration of a liger named Shasta in a glass exhibit with a girl looking very happy with her hands in the air and one foot lifted.

Illustration by Travis Foster

Playing Hooky

By Holly Howington Sweetwood (BA ’07) | Oakland, Md.

When I graduated from the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, the ceremony was in the Marriott Center. My husband, Ryan V. Sweetwood (BS ’06), and my parents looked out over the vast expanse of caps and robes and sighed. It would be hours before I crossed the stage with a last name starting with S. Ryan leaned over to my dad and whispered, “You know, the Bean Museum is next door.” So they left! They got so caught up in the exhibits they barely made it back in time, sliding into their seats with only two graduates to spare before I crossed the stage. Ryan still insists it was the most fun he’s ever had at a graduation ceremony.

Delicate Delivery

By Stephanie Brown Holmes (BA ’05) | Redmond, Wash.

As an employee of the campus flower shop, I delivered centerpieces to just about every venue on campus. But the most exciting delivery was to the regular basketball dinner hosted at the Bean Museum. We would always get the same order: the flowers were to be in a water bottle vase with a large bunch of balloons hovering above. Making the order was a piece of cake; delivering it was another story.

I carefully maneuvered the throng of balloons through the delivery doors, which led to a back hallway. Now came the gauntlet: the finicky balloons couldn’t even touch the rough ceilings without popping. To make matters even more challenging, the hall was full of dangerous residents—birds with sharp beaks to the left, insects stuck on pins to the right—a balloon bunch’s worst nightmare! After deftly shepherding my helium-filled flock between clear cases of cicadas and gaggles of glassy-eyed geese, I arrived at the delivery desk, where the attendant would invariably instruct me to “just put it over by the moose.” And so I would walk out into the second-story atrium, bristling with antlers, talons, and teeth. Eyeing the falcons overhead with suspicion, I would leave my little flighty friends in the care of the great moose, flanked by the deer and the snow leopard, and hope for the best.