Five ASTC member institutions and two science center professionals received inaugural-year Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Awards on October 16 at the 2005 ASTC Annual Conference in Richmond, Virginia.
Leading Edge Award for Business Practice (large institution)
Awarded to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh for its innovative partnership with the University of Pittsburgh Center for Out-of-School Environments (UPCLOSE). The museum works with UPCLOSE as it tests programs, prototypes exhibits, and performs evaluations, and UPCLOSE graduate students conduct learning research on-site, using the museum’s programs and exhibits as a laboratory. This partnership serves as a model of how nonprofit organizations can collaborate to advance each other’s goals and positively influence visitor experiences.
Leading Edge Award for Business Practice (small institution)
Awarded to Sciencenter in Ithaca, New York, for its Wall of Inspiration, a donor-recognition program that honors financial supporters of the museum (and inspires new ones) while also serving as an educational exhibit. Contributors to the museum’s recent capital campaign could each pick a scientist or mathematician whose life and work they admired. The museum then created a series of color plaques—complete with portraits of scientists, descriptions of their achievements, and donor-crafted dedications—that form a permanent display in the museum’s community room.
Leading Edge Award for Visitor Experience (large institution)
Awarded to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and the Taylor Community Science Resource Center at the St. Louis Science Center.
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science accepted its award for Space Odyssey, a 13,000-square-foot permanent exhibition area that integrates immersive environments, hands-on exhibits, live programming, and digital media to deliver timely and relevant space science information. Space Odyssey was honored as well for its outstanding volunteer corps, the 300-strong Museum Galaxy Guides, who deliver science demos and programs, facilitate interactive exhibits, and use portable interactive props to customize visitor experiences.
The Taylor Community Science Resource Center at the St. Louis Science Center received its award for modelling inclusive and thoughtful visitor experiences in science, technology, engineering, and math, and for inspiring other informal education centers. The award jury praised the Resource Center’s leadership in public outreach and its commitment to increasing participation of members from historically underserved and underrepresented communities. The center, which is home to several science center educational initiatives, including off-site programming, educator professional development, and youth programs, reached more than 70,000 participants in the community last year.
Leading Edge Award for Visitor Experience (small institution)
Awarded to Nebraska’s Omaha Children’s Museum (OCM). In May 2004, OCM became the first children’s museum to host Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, an internationally known exhibition that is primarily geared to older children and adults. Staff enhanced the experience for younger visitors with Discovery Ports—exhibits designed specifically for children that focus on the science and cultural aspects of the ill-fated ocean liner. These enhancements, matched with an expanded marketing campaign for visitors beyond the museum’s traditional demographic, earned OCM its award.
Leading Edge Award for Leadership in the Field — Award for New Leadership
Bestowed upon an individual who joined the field after January 2002. Awarded toChad Johnson of the Edgerton Explorit Center (EEC) in Aurora, Nebraska. Hired in February 2004 as an experiential educator, Johnson made a lasting impact on EEC and the community it serves through creative programming and keen business leadership. In addition to launching several new educational programs, earning the repeat monthly business of more than 70 families, Johnson used his programming skills to develop a time- and cost-efficient online registration system.
Leading Edge Award for Leadership in the Field — Award for Experienced Leadership
Bestowed upon an individual who joined the field before January 2002. Awarded to Preeti Gupta of the New York Hall of Science in Queens, New York. A product of the museum’s Science Career Ladder, a paid internship program designed to encourage women and people from minority communities to explore careers in science, technology, and science education, Gupta worked at the Hall for 12 years before becoming head of the education department in 2001. Since then, she has continued to bolster the program, expanding the number of participants by 50 percent, building new relationships with funders and schools, and significantly strengthening its training and evaluation components. The jury also cited her willingness to share her expertise and help interested organizations use the Science Career Ladder model for their own programs.