Communicating Climate Change

December 29th, 2008 - Posted in ASTC News, Featured, Member News, Partners by Wendy Pollock

Exploring atmospheric models at Chabot Space & Science CenterPublic understanding of climate science got an infusion of energy with the December launch of a major national collaborative designed to engage citizens of all ages directly in investigations of local indicators of climate change.

Communicating Climate Change, a project of ASTC’s IGLO (International Action on Global Warming) Initiative, pairs 12 science centers with research institutions to observe and document indicators of climate change, from bark beetle infestations to changing patterns of bird migration. Also supporting the project are the American Geophysical Union, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies will study effects of participation in educational activities on public attitudes and behavior.

Yale’s Anthony Leiserowitz, a Co-Principal Investigator for the project, notes that his research suggests that most people believe that “climate change is something that takes place somewhere else far away, not in your own backyard.” Communicating Climate Change is designed to change that understanding. In addition to educational programs and research activities, the project will produce a series of videos for broadcast on American television’s ABC network and a web-based interactive map where science centers worldwide can contribute climate indicator data.

Science centers participating in the project are: Arizona Science Center, Phoenix; Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii; Chabot Space & Science Center, Oakland, California; EdVenture Children’s Museum, Columbia, South Carolina; the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Maryland Science Center, Baltimore; Museum of Discovery & Science, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Albuquerque; New York Hall of Science, Queens (where the launch event took place); Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego, California; Sciencenter, Ithaca, New York; and Saint Louis Science Center, Missouri.

Communicating Climate Change is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Informal Science Education program.

Photo: Chabot Space & Science Center teen volunteer Connie Phu and college environmental intern Marie VanZandt explore atmospheric models with science center public visitors. Photo courtesy of Chabot Space & Science Center

Saint Louis Science Center hosts first annual SciFest

December 5th, 2008 - Posted in Featured, Member News by Christine Ruffo

Mark Lewney at SciFest 08On October 9–13, Saint Louis Science Center, Missouri, invited visitors to celebrate and engage in science at SciFest 08. The new annual event featured sessions and demonstrations on topics ranging from the science of chocolate and the physics of rock & roll, to climate change and the future of cancer research.

Physicist Mark Lewney used his guitar skills to teach audiences about such complex topics as quantum mechanics and the Superstring theory. The festival’s “Fashion with a Purpose” competition invited area student fashion designers to take part in a green fashion show. Other events included an Omnimax FilmFest, Young Scientist workshops, and a showcase of demonstrations and hands-on exhibits.

Each year, science centers and museums plan celebrations that introduce thousands of people to science. The November/December 2008 issue of ASTC Dimensions examines how science celebrations are advancing public engagement with science, changing attitudes, bringing in new audiences, and strengthening links among science centers. ASTC Connect, the online professional development area of the ASTC website, will hold an online discussion about science celebrations in the Dimensions Forum, December 15–19.

Photo courtesy Saint Louis Science Center

Science Celebrations

November 15th, 2008 - Posted in 2008, Dimensions by Christine Ruffo

November/December 2008

In 2009, science centers and museums will celebrate the Year of Science, Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday, and the International Year of Astronomy. Every year, many institutions plan programs around global initiatives like Earth Science Week and international holidays like World Environment Day. New celebrations such as NanoDays and the Cambridge Science Festival, Massachusetts, are introducing thousands of people to science. In this issue, we examine how science celebrations are advancing public engagement with science, changing attitudes, bringing in new audiences, and strengthening links among science centers.

• Year of Science 2009: Communicating, Collaborating, and Celebrating Science, by Sheri Potter and Judy Scotchmoor
• From the Origin to the Future of Species: Celebrating Darwin’s Legacy, by Katie Edwards
• Stars Align for the International Year of Astronomy 2009, by Kat Stein
• ASTC and the International Year of Astronomy 2009, by Walter Staveloz
• Challenging and Changing Minds: Emotional Learning and Physics Competitions, by Rachel Moll
• We Threw a Party and Everybody Came: A Science Celebration Sampler (Small Things Considered, by Vrylena Olney and Karen Pollard; Doors Wide Open for Earth Science Week, by Geoff Camphire and Adrienne Barnett; Cooking Up Science in Cambridge, by John Durant and P.A. d’Arbeloff; Celebrating Science, Enlightening Community in Gujarat, by Narottam Sahoo)

Download the full issue.

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Cooking Up Science in Cambridge

November 15th, 2008 - Posted in 2008, Dimensions by Christine Ruffo

By John Durant and P.A. d’Arbeloff
From ASTC Dimensions
November/December 2008

1. Take one science city.
2. Carefully extract the juiciest parts, making sure to retain all the most enthusiastic graduate students, and as many superstar researchers and Nobel Laureates as you can find.
3. Mix thoroughly with generous quantities of actors, artists, broadcasters, critics, curators, entrepreneurs, exhibitors, impresarios, inventors, musicians, raconteurs, and writers.
4. Add a cup of civic leadership and a teaspoon of organizational flair, and bake for several months.
5. Serve as more than 200 separate courses over nine days, making sure that all sections of the community get plenty to eat.

1,800 from 31 countries attend ASTC 2008

October 28th, 2008 - Posted in Annual Conference, Featured by Emily Schuster

Conference attendees gather in the ASTC Resource Center.More than 1,800 science center professionals from 31 countries gathered in Philadelphia, October 18–21, for the 2008 ASTC Annual Conference. Over 140 conference sessions challenged participants to explore their responsibility to both their scientific and public constituencies. Keynote speaker Steven Berlin Johnson, a journalist, cultural critic, and web developer, encouraged science centers to become places where new ideas can develop. Joe Palca, science correspondent for National Public Radio, moderated a plenary session, “The Global Discussion on Global Sustainability: Where Do Science Centers Fit In?” with panelists Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change; Lynne Cherry, author of numerous science books for young readers; and Philip C. Myrick, vice president of the New York–based Project for Public Spaces.

Dennis Wint, president and CEO of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, received the ASTC Fellow Award for Outstanding Contribution, ASTC’s highest honor. Six Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Awards were presented at the conference: the Award for Business Practice to the Saint Louis Science Center, Missouri; the Award for Visitor Experience, Small Science Center, to the National Canal Museum, Easton, Pennsylvania; two Awards for Visitor Experience, Large Science Center, to the Ontario Science Centre, Toronto, and the Virginia Living Museum, Newport News; the Award for New Leadership in the Field to Cynthia Graville-Smith of the Saint Louis Science Center; and the Award for Experienced Leadership in the Field to Ingit Mukhopadhyay of the National Council of Science Museums, India.

Audio recordings of most sessions can be purchased on CD from Convention Recordings International.

About the image: Conference attendees gather in the ASTC Resource Center between sessions. Photo by Christine Ruffo

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