Fill in the Blanks with Director of Curriculum and Content Kat Havens

March 19, 2021
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As a native Houstonian, Kat Havens has watched the Houston Museum of Natural Science change and grow over the decades. In her role as the Director of Curriculum and Content, she is constantly looking for ways to bring scientific concepts closer to home for our patrons, no matter their age. Helping them realize that even though there are centuries and eons between us and the artifacts in our halls, humanity’s curiosity is the same. We just keep improving on our tools.

Kat Havens with They Lost Their Heads.
Available in the Museum Store.

Like everyone in the HMNS family, Havens’ life-long love of science — specifically anthropology — is what drew her to work at the museum. Well-versed in almost all things museum as an employee and volunteer, her goal is to share her love of learning with anyone who will stop long enough to listen, or read.

Her passion has translated over to the students that she has had in her classrooms. Some of those kids are now adults, working alongside her to make a better museum for everyone.

You can see and hear Kat co-host the “Beyond Bones Zoomcast” every week, where she and I tackle such weighty subjects as eating bugs, ancient memes, and inspecting the connective tissue that connects us to the natural world with special guests from the museum world.
Join Craig and Kat as they discuss Pompeii and the striking similarities to modern day life.

If there is one thing I have learned at HMNS…is that no matter how much you know about any given subject, you can always learn more.

This learning and discovery often comes from the most unexpected sources. I have taught classes and camps for children as young as four years old, to the elderly in retirement communities, and everyone in-between. The one thing that I can always count on is excitement, enthusiasm, and the fact that I will discover something new from people, no matter their age or the subject I am presenting. This fact makes what I do a never-ending journey and a source of wonder and joy for me.

Children see the world with fresh eyes and often will have a profoundly clear view of a subject matter. They can really boil it down to the basic elements and remind me that the wonder of learning and discovery is what matters most. Our older patrons have so much to offer in the way of lived experience and stories. There is nothing quite like listening to a person who has borne witness to historical events, such as the Apollo 11 landing or the invention of new technologies and discoveries. I absolutely love my job for these reasons and most of the time what I do doesn’t even feel like work.

If I had only ten minutes to visit HMNS I would…freak out!

I have worked at HMNS going on 25 years and I still have not had ample time to take everything in that the museum has to offer. I know that seems like a non-answer, but it is the truth. There is always something new at the museum, but even if we never got another artifact or new exhibit, I would still find things that I have not seen before. There is just so much to discover.

However, if I only had 10 minutes, I would make a quick visit to my mummy friends in the Hall of Ancient Egypt. This hall brings me inner peace and I feel like I am enveloped by the deep history and mystery of the ancients. I often make short visits to this hall just to get some peace and center myself when the world seems crazy. I think that most people would have no trouble finding a special spot here that would make them happy.

Some people probably don’t know that I am…unreasonably anxious when it comes to insects.

Many are surprised by this given my affinity for forensic anthropology and digging in the dirt. When I first began working at HMNS, I had to admit to Nancy Grieg, our former director of the Cockrell Butterfly Center, that I was terrified of butterflies landing on me. They have sticky feet.

Nancy told me that I was a science educator and I needed to set a good example, so she helped me to work with the butterflies and other insects. I eventually overcame my phobia, for the most part. I am still working on embracing one of our more popular insects, the hissing cockroaches. I am not there yet, but I have high hopes that we will become “friends” someday.

Teaching the gentle care of fragile butterflies.

If I had the world’s ear for just five minutes I would tell the world that….everyone, no matter how small they may feel, has the ability to change the world for the better.

Learning about and engaging in science and history may help them discover ways to make a difference whether that is by sharing what they have learned or going on to further that knowledge through formal education and using those skills to change the world. Some of our most accomplished scientists and inventors were/are museumophiles!

The wisest people I ever met…are my parents.

My parents knew that exposing their children to the wonders of the world was an important part of creating a whole person. When I was young, Houston had so much to offer in the way of culture and the arts. They exposed us to everything they could. That included many trips to museums, including HMNS. In fact, a visit to the King Tut exhibit in 1976started the fire and passion in me that eventually led to me literally begging to be allowed to work at the museum.

Working at a science museum has…made me a better person. It is as simple as that. I have met so many incredible people from the youngest of children to the oldest among us from all backgrounds and cultures. Interacting with them has shaped my ever-evolving worldview. I have been given the privilege to experience science and historical events through the eyes and filters of so many different individuals and I can think of anything much cooler than that.

Authored By Craig Hlavaty

Craig Hlavaty has been covering Houston pop-culture since 2006 at various outlets around the city. He is currently the social media manager at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and eats his tamales with ketchup.

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