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ASTC Update: Three ASTC members receive IMLS/MacArthur Learning Labs grant, four more to partner with awarded libraries

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced November 8 that three ASTC-member institutions—the Lawrence Hall of Science, Berkeley, California; Madison Children’s Museum, Wisconsin; and the Science Museum of Virginia Foundation, Richmond—were among the second round of winners of a U.S.-wide competition to design 21st Century learning labs in museums and libraries around the country.

The winners—five museums and seven libraries—will receive a total of $1.2 million in grants to plan and design the labs. Inspired by YOUMedia, a teen space at the Chicago Public Library, and innovations in science and technology centers, these labs will help young people move beyond consuming content to making and creating it.

In addition to the three ASTC members that received Learning Labs grants, four additional ASTC members—Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Las Vegas Natural History Museum, Nevada; Lied Discovery Children’s Museum, Las Vegas, Nevada; and Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas, Texas—will partner with awarded libraries in their communities.

Each Learning Lab will be designed to facilitate a research-based education model known as connected learning–one that promotes discovery, creativity, critical thinking and real-world learning through activities and experiences that bring together academics and young people’s interests, often facilitated by digital and traditional media. The labs will connect teens to mentors and peers, as well as anytime, anywhere access to information through online social networks, so they can pursue their interests more deeply and connect these new skills to academics, career, and civic engagement.

ASTC CEO Anthony (Bud) Rock remarked, “We are very excited about the continued success of the Learning Labs program. Science centers and museums nurture the innovative spirit so crucially needed for success in today’s world, and using digital media to further ignite the excitement of our nation’s youth about lifelong STEM learning will ensure that future generations cultivate the skills they need, such as problem solving, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. The fact that three of the five museums named as grant recipients are science centers is an exciting testament to the strength of our field as an incubator of innovation in our communities.”

The 12 recipients of this round of grants were selected out of a pool of 105 applicants from 33 states. Applications were evaluated by professionals with relevant expertise in digital media and learning. Winners will participate—in-person and online—in a community of practice that will provide technical assistance, networking, and cross-project learning. In addition to the Lawrence Hall of Science, Madison Children’s Museum, and the Science Museum of Virginia Foundation, those institutions selected as grant recipients include: University of Alabama/Alabama Museum of Natural History, Tuscaloosa; Rochester Public Library, New York; City of Lynn, Massachusetts (Lynn Public Library); Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, Nevada; Parmly Billings Library Foundation, Inc., Billings, Montana; Pima County Public Library, Tucson, Arizona; and Poughkeepsie Public Library District, New York.

These grantees join 12 other communities also planning new learning centers in libraries and museums as a part of the Learning Labs in Libraries and Museums project. The initiative was first announced in September 2010 in response to President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign, an effort to foster cross-sector collaboration to improve America’s students’ participation and performance in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Since then, MacArthur and IMLS have committed to invest $4 million to support knowledge-sharing activities for museums and libraries nationwide, and work together to create new Learning Labs across the nation.

For more information about the Learning Labs project, visit www.imls.gov or www.Youmedia.org.