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Sandy Journal

Local third-grader shares her passion of dinosaurs with Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee

Apr 03, 2022 06:38PM ● By Julie Slama

East Sandy third-grader Macey Degen tells the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee about her experience seeing fossils from the Natural History Museum of Utah. (Screenshot)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

An East Sandy Elementary third-grader told legislators how she got to see teeth, a claw and toe fossils of dinosaurs when the Natural History Museum of Utah visited her school.

Macey Degen, who wants to be a paleontologist so she can discover more about dinosaurs, was invited to speak Jan. 27 to Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee by the Natural History Museum of Utah.

“My name is Macey. I am 8 years old, I love dinosaurs, of course, and I’m autistic,” she said in her first visit inside the capitol. “The ammonites when they’re in danger, they put their heads and legs inside and close their shell so they stay protected.”

During the visit, Rep. Steve Eliason talked to her about Utah raptors and showed her a book he has about them.

Macey, who’s favorite dinosaurs are a Utah raptor, a velociraptor and tyrannosaurus rex, was excited that “I got to stand up and talk behind the microphone” in a “huge room with big, giant flag on the wall” and “lots of people.”

She was accompanied by her parents. Her mother, Dawn Shaw, introduced her to the committee members.

“Macey told them about the fossils she saw in the principal’s office and how much it meant to her and how it was nice to see other people interested in what she was interested in,” Shaw said. “Lots of people were coming up to her and tell her what a good job she did. It was really, really, really special.”

East Sandy Principal Brian Rudes said that a few months earlier, he spoke to the Natural History Museum of Utah educator after she was giving fourth graders presentations a few months ago.

“I asked if they would let this student I knew, who was in third grade and loves dinosaurs, come to my office to see the fossils,” he said. “They let her hold them and look at them and she just went wild when they showed her that stuff. Then the Natural History Museum reached back out to us—because they go to the state capitol to petition for funding every year—and asked if we could put them in contact with her family. She was able to share her experience about seeing the fossils and how cool it was, and that was a really special thing. She did a great job. I’m proud of her.”

Macey also got to meet Jason Cryan, the executive director of the Natural History Museum of Utah, who gave her a 3D book about the Utah raptor.

“When you move the pages, the dinosaurs move in the book,” Macey said.

When she returned to school, Macey got to share her experience with her class and her principal and teachers could watch a video of her talk.

“It was cool and it was very fun,” Macey said.

The museum also provided Macey and her family as well as students in her class passes to the museum.

“I get to go to the museum to see dinosaur bones being cleaned with a back door pass,” she said. “It’s all been pretty good.”