Canada urges science centers to “lead the fight to save children’s future”

October 14th, 2007 - Posted in Annual Conference by Wendy Pollock

Geoffrey Canada addresses the 2007 ASTC Annual Conference

In an October 13 keynote address at the ASTC Annual Conference, Los Angeles, Geoffrey Canada, president/CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) in New York City, challenged science centers to “lead the fight to save children’s future.” The United States has created an environment that destroys young children in poverty said Canada, the author of Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America. Among the statistics he cited: More than 100,000 young Americans have been killed by firearms since 1979, and 15,000 African American men are incarcerated in New York City jails alone.

But science centers can play a role in saving young people and addressing social injustice, Canada said. “We need to begin early. Poor children start off behind and never catch up.” Science centers can provide experiences that stimulate young brains, and they can engage parents and keep them as partners. We should create a “continuum of support” that draws in young people at every age and offers encouragement and support to those who are discouraged with learning.


“We cannot expect young people to thrive in communities other people wouldn’t be caught dead in,” he said. “We have to think of our institutions as part of the engine that transforms communities.”"The future of America rests in the hands of those of you in this room,” Canada said. The most important resources of a society are intellectual, and we have lost that perspective in the United States. “Unless we’re prepared to fight for real equity, we’re going toleave this generation of children behind.” Closing with one of his own poems, Canada urged science centers to “take a stand.”

Aquarium of the Pacific hosts climate change workshop

October 13th, 2007 - Posted in Annual Conference by lynn

IGLO workshop participants at the Aquarium of the Pacific

ASTC 2007 attendees gathered October 12 at the Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, California, for a workshop that explored climate change issues and the role science centers can play in addressing them. Science centers have an important contribution to make, participants agreed, in building public understanding of the complex science of global warming and elevating the level of public discourse on the topic that ultimately shapes policy.


In the morning, attendees were taken through eye-opening presentations on the science of climate change and new government-initiated efforts to support science institutions in educating the public about the issue. In his opening remarks, Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), described how the agency is now in a unique position to contribute to the science education field because for the first time, it has authority to manage education and outreach efforts.Keith W. Dixon, meteorologist at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) at Princeton University, then took workshop attendees through a highly informative tour of the large-scale and long-term effects of climate change and the ocean on one another. He described the problem of educating the public about a “warming commitment.” Even if current emissions levels are drastically reduced, he said, the earth would still continue to warm because of carbon dioxide’s slow rate of dissipation. Ultimately the ocean’s capacity to absorb large amounts of heat is what delays the effects in increase in global temperature and buys us time for action, he said.Waleed Abdalati, head of the Cryospheric Sciences Branch at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, finished with a presentation of evidence showing that the Greenland ice sheet is melting at an alarming rate. Are we at the tipping point of global warming, or are there multiple phases of climate stability? The science is still uncertain, he said.

During a late-morning tour, the Aquarium’s Green Team showed measures the institution has undertaken to be more environmentally responsible in its everyday operations. In addition to being a partner in the Sustainable Seafood Forum and serving seafood from sustainable sources to all aquarium animals and guests, the institution uses low-water consumption toilets and has undertaken a green expansion plan where all projects will be LEED-certified.

During the afternoon, participants divided into two groups to discuss informal science institutions as safe havens for public discourse on science policy issues. Although there were differences of opinion about the extent to which science centers should move beyond communicating the science to encourage action, all agreed that science centers have a responsibility to inform the public about complex and controversial topics.

Visit the IGLO web site and look for the next IGLO Newsletter for more in-depth recaps of the preconference workshop.

ASTC 2007: From vision to reality!

October 12th, 2007 - Posted in Annual Conference by Wendy Pollock

On the high-wire bike at the California Science Center

More than 2,000 science center professionals from across the globe are gathering in Los Angeles, California, October 13-16 for the 2007 ASTC Annual Conference. ASTC 2007, “Lights, Camera, Action: From Vision to Reality,” is being hosted by the California Science Center.

Highlights include over 150 conference sessions on topics like inquiry learning, working with youth, and communicating with the public about nanoscale science. Keynotes will be given by Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, and Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, co-hosts of “MythBusters,” the Discovery Channel’s award-winning science show. In addition, celebrated author and National Medal of Arts winner Ray Bradbury will join Martin Sklar, former vice chairman and principal creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, for an interview with film critic Leonard Maltin about the science of fiction, and Lesley Chilcott and Davis Guggenheim—the co-producer and director, respectively, behind An Inconvenient Truth, the Academy Award-winning film about global warming featuring former U.S. Vice President Al Gore—will share the strategies that went into designing an illustrated science lecture compelling enough for theatrical release.


The California Science Center stimulates curiosity and inspires science learning through interactive exhibits, live demonstrations, and innovative programs. The science center’s main Howard F. Ahmanson Building encompasses three levels in 245,000 square feet, including Creative World, exploring the inventions and environments humans create to meet their needs for communication, transportation and structures; World of Life, examining how people, plants, animals and the tiniest living cells all perform the same life processes to survive; Weingart Special Exhibits Gallery, featuring the new traveling exhibition Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear; an IMAX theater; and, in adjacent buildings, the SKETCH Foundation Gallery, with more than 16,000 square feet of historic and interactive air and space exhibits, and the Wallis Annenberg Building for Science Learning and Innovation, featuring the K–5 Science Center School and the giant experimentation platforms of The Big Lab.

If you’ll be in LA for the conference, join the Flickr photo pool. Just search for “ASTC 2007″ and add your photos.

See you in LA!

Science centers worldwide host climate conversations

October 9th, 2007 - Posted in Member News, Partners by lynn

IGLO event at Heureka, Vantaa, Finland

More than 30 science centers worldwide participated in an October 4 “conversation” about climate science and public policy coordinated by ASTC’s IGLO initiative (International Action on Global Warming). In the United States, the event was part of the National Conversation on Climate Action, sponsored by the Yale School of Environment and Forestry, ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability), and IGLO. Many centers used the DECIDE (Deliberative Citizens’ Debate) “game” developed by Europe science centers and adapted for this event by IGLO partners. Participants considered alternative policies, agreed on consensus positions, and uploaded results to the DECIDE website. By October 7, 77 groups had recorded their results.


Groups meeting in science centers worldwide considered four policy positions suggested by game materials: adapt to climate change, invest in climate science, adopt economic incentives to increase energy efficiency and reduce deforestation, or adopt international agreements and a deadline of 2015 for major change. Most recommended a combination of strategies and suggested others. A group meeting in Finland summed up their discussion: “Climate change is a joint problem of us all, rich and poor. The fight against it could unite us all.”

Other October 4 programs included: a discussion panel at the Marian Koshland Science Museum, Washington, D.C.; a global warming “game show” at Questacon, Canberra, Australia; and science demonstrations and films at the Città della Scienza, Naples, Italy. Check the IGLO and PlayDECIDE web sites for updates.

Director and producer of An Inconvenient Truth to speak at ASTC 2007

October 1st, 2007 - Posted in Annual Conference by lynn

Lawrence Bender (left) and Davis Guggenheim (right)

An Inconvenient Truth, the Academy Award-winning film about global warming featuring former U.S. vice president Al Gore, was seen by many as a triumph of science communication. On October 15, Lawrence Bender, producer of the film, and Davis Guggenheim, the director, will speak at a special session during the 2007 ASTC Annual Conference about the strategies that went into designing an illustrated science lecture compelling enough for theatrical release. Carol Lynn Alpert, director of strategic projects at the Museum of Science, Boston, Massachusetts, will serve as moderator.


Bender’s career spans more than 20 years in the entertainment industry. In television, he has produced films for all major broadcast and cable networks, including Dr. Vegas for CBS and The Legend of Earthsea for the Sci-Fi Channel. The lastest philanthropic effort of this passionate social and political activist is “18 Seconds,” a public campaign organized in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy.

Guggenheim’s television director credits include the pilot of the CBS television show “The Unit,” episodes of “Numbers,” “The Shield,” “Alias,” and “Deadwood.” Film credits include Training Day, Gossip, and Gracie in addition to An Inconvenient Truth.

For more information about the session and the conference, please visit our Annual Conference page.

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