On Becoming an Inclusive Science Center

November 15th, 2004 - Posted in 2004, Dimensions by Christina Jones

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November/December 2004

If our institutions are to grow and thrive, science centers and museums must engage new audiences and learn to meet the complex educational needs of our increasingly diverse communities. We cannot do that if we do not ourselves reflect that diversity. In May 2000, ASTC’s board of directors set itself an ambitious task: to “aggressively pursue equity and diversity” as a strategic objective for the entire organization. In October 2001, ASTC adopted the Equity and Diversity Initiative. Three years later, how much closer are we to our objective? In this issue, we offer some reports from the field.

• Beyond Tokenism: Why Diversity Matters in Science Centers, by Barbara Ando and Jeff Rudolph
As Happy As Can Be: Fostering Inclusiveness at Explora, by Paul Tatter
• Haven’t We Done That? Measuring Staff Diversity in Science Centers, by Vivian Jenkins Nelsen
• The ASTC Equity and Diversity Initiative: 2004 Implementation Status Summary
• Native Waters: Integrating Scientific and Cultural Ways of Knowing, by Bonnie Sachatello-Sawyer and Teresa Cohn
• Resources for Inclusion: An International Sampler, by
• Action for Equity and Diversity: Things You Could Start Tomorrow
• Diversity Dialogues: Lessons of the ASTC Conference Fellowship Program, by DeAnna Banks Beane

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Farther Afield: The Changing School Visit

September 1st, 2004 - Posted in 2004, Dimensions by Christina Jones

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September/October 2004

Field trips, excursions, school visits—call them what you will, on-site programs for teachers and students remain a key element of science center operations. But a recent change in education policy in the United States, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, has put these “bread-and-butter” programs in question. Under the terms of NCLB, the status of each school—and, by extension, its teachers—depends on how well its students score on annual standardized tests in reading and mathematics. In response, many school districts are funneling resources into basic instruction, dropping enrichment programs like art, music, and museum visits. A January report by the National Education Association reveals that field trips have been eliminated statewide in Kentucky and Michigan, while in other states officials have cut back on trips or imposed new fees. In this issue, we look at creative ways science centers are responding to this challenge, and consider some promising new practices.

The Field Trip Challenge: Finding Common Ground, by Dennis Schatz
• Connecting with Curriculum: A Hands-On Biotech Lab, by Michele Schilten
• Serving Teachers, Supporting Schools: A Collaborative Solution, by Ann Carter and Fawn Warner
• Science Oasis: Solving the Distance Problem, by Chad Johnson
• Online vs. On-Site: The ‘Burarra Gathering’ Experience, by Brenton Honeyman
• Chaperone-Led Field Trips: The Road Less Traveled?, by Kimberly M. Burtnyk
• Videoconferencing: Closing the Distance at COSI, by Gail Wheatley and Carolyn Sutterfield

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Science for Early Learners: Reaching Very Young Audiences

July 15th, 2004 - Posted in 2004, Dimensions by Christina Jones

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July/August 2004

Last year at this time, we wrote about an audience seldom found in science centers—older adults—and described how museums are reaching out to these lifelong learners. In this issue, we turn our attention to what has been called the “hidden audience” of science centers—very young children—whose needs are sometimes overlooked even as we bill ourselves “family friendly.” Children’s museums, many of them longtime ASTC members, have led the way here; in 1990, ASTC and the Children’s Museum of Boston co-published a book, Planning for the Very Young, that addressed “excellence and equity in the pre-school activities at science museums.” But science centers, which seek to serve audiences of all ages, have continued to evolve their own approaches to early learning in science and technology. We offer some examples here.

Preschool Science Place: Creating a Playful Space for Early Learning, by Marcia Rudy
• One Experience at a Time: Measuring Success in the Kids Room, by Stacey Prinzing
• Science is Everywhere: Making a Commitment to Family Learning, by Suzanne Walton
• Supporting Teachers in Science, by Robin Schotter
• WOWtown: A Young Child’s Journey into the World Close By, by Lorne Perry
• Staffing an Early Learning Gallery, by Ann Ensminger
• Including Our Youngest Visitors, by Karen Propst

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Global Positioning: Revisiting the Science Center Model

May 15th, 2004 - Posted in 2004, Dimensions by Christina Jones

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May/June 2004

Does our science center model need an overhaul? That was the question posed in the session of that title, led by ASTC president Pelle Persson and Buffalo Museum of Science President and CEO David Chesebrough, at the 2003 ASTC Annual Conference in St. Paul. The roundtable discussion attracted an overflow crowd—an indication that the topic resonates for many in the field. In preparation for a follow-up at ASTC 2004 in San Jose, this issue offers additional perspectives and some examples of ways that science centers are reexamining and repurposing their institutions for a new century.

• If We Could Do It Again, by Emlyn Koster
• The Dana Centre: Science for Adults Only, by Graham Farmelo
• Agents of Change: Reinventing the Ontario Science Center, by Jennifer Martin
• People to People: Tying Science to Culture in South Africa, by Jon Weinberg
Who’s Driving the Engine? Finding Your Model for the Sustainable Future, by Thomas Krakauer
• The Darwin Centre: Integrating Collections and Communication, by Neil Chalmers
• Citizen Science: Involving the Public in Research, by Rick Bonney and Melinda S. LaBranche
• Social Inclusion, Science, and the Quality of Life, by Paulo Gadelha

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Visitor-Centered Spaces: How Physical Context Affects Experience

March 15th, 2004 - Posted in 2004, Dimensions by Christina Jones

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March/April 2004

That physical surroundings have a profound impact on our mental and emotional well-being is not a new insight. Nor is it innovative to apply that insight to the organization of museum spaces. In his 1987 Museum Visitor Evaluation: New Tool for Management, Ross J. Loomis counseled managers to pay close attention to wayfinding and develop “a master plan that anticipates human needs from the time visitors enter the museum until they leave.” But with so many science centers and museums currently embarking on major building programs, expansions and renovations, it seems appropriate to revisit the connection between physical context and the visitor experience.

Designed For, Not By: The Visitor-Centered Environment, by Jeanne Vergeront
• A Tool for Learning: Envisioning the New Science Museum of Minnesota, by Andrejs J. Cers
• Following the Flow, by Don Pohlman
• First Impressions: Thoughts on Entering the Museum, by Mikko Myllykoski
• Power to the People, by Rick Stroup
• Organizing Museum Space: Learning Stages as Physical Context, by John W. Jacobsen
• Access to Information: Wayfinding for All Visitors, by Ellen Rubin
• Evaluating Ping!, by Ellen Giusti

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