Toronto, Helsinki: What’s next?

October 31st, 2009 - Posted in Annual Conference by Kate Crawford

Following the 5th Science Centre World Congress in Toronto in June 2008, and a March 2009 science and society “think tank” in Helsinki, this October 31 ASTC annual conference session asked “What’s Next?” as science centers around the world grapple with how to address the planet’s major challenges.

Session leader Walter Staveloz of ASTC set the stage by emphasizing the important link between informal science education and science and society issues. Lesley Lewis of the Ontario Science Centre, Toronto, provided background on the Toronto Declaration and the evolution of ASTC’s strategic priorities, including a new emphasis on science and society. Lewis was followed by Kathy Sykes of the University of Bristol, United Kingdom, who provided a European perspective, describing Britain’s recent efforts to engage the public on scientific issues. Elizabeth Hoyos of Maloka Science Center, Bogotá, Colombia, spoke about Maloka’s cross-cultural efforts to engage the nation’s leaders on science and society issues.

Emlyn Koster of Liberty Science Center, Jersey City, New Jersey, a member of ASTC’s Science and Society Working Group, presented highlights from the science and society deliberation that occurred during the ASTC board meeting on October 30. He closed the session with a challenge to the field—to work toward establishing science centers as being as essential to education as colleges and universities.

Using this session as an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a larger discussion, Staveloz will host a follow-up forum on ASTC Connect in 2010. If you are interested in joining the debate, please contact Walter Staveloz at

Take it to the stage

October 31st, 2009 - Posted in Annual Conference, Featured by Emily Schuster

Science Songs“REDOX, that’s a chem. abbreviation,
REDOX, it means reduction-oxidation
That’s what’s got you down, nearly driving you insane,
It happens when electrons are lost and gained.”

The sounds of songs like this one drifted out from the session “Science in Song” at the ASTC Annual Conference on October 31. Three science center bands shared their music and experiences, and session participants were invited to sing and play along using lyrics sheets and rhythm instruments. Exploraband from Explora in Albuquerque, New Mexico, specializes in songs about science and math in genres ranging from blues to swing. Jim Taylor & Friends, a band from the Health Adventure, Asheville, North Carolina, plays original songs about science topics including momentum, electricity, gravity, and the history of science. The band from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), Portland, has performed for very young children using fanciful instruments created by OMSI staff. One such instrument, the Toolaballoonophone, is a set of tuned mechanic’s wrenches played like a xylophone. Session presenters included Paul Tatter from Explora, Jim Taylor from the Health Adventure, and Ray Vandiver from OMSI.

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the convention center, a diverse group was also exploring ways of using performance to teach about science. Designed for those who perform in shows, demonstrations, and plays at their science centers, the active workshop “Performance Techniques for Science Center Professionals” helped participants strengthen their skills in acting, movement, voice, and showmanship. Participants learned how to develop a character, find a storyline, manage an audience, project their voices, use facial expressions, work with props, and convey excitement and enthusiasm even after doing the same show 1,000 times. The hands-on class was led by Eddie Goldstein of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Colorado; Stephanie Long of the Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul; and Heather Barnes of the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago.

About the image: Musicians from Explora, Health Adventure, and OMSI present “Science in Song.”  They will also perform tonight at the conference banquet. Photo by Christine Ruffo

Anousheh Ansari speaks of passion for science and education in keynote

October 31st, 2009 - Posted in Annual Conference by Emily Schuster

DSC_0354Technology innovator, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and space explorer Anousheh Ansari gave the keynote address, entitled “Science Centers as Agents of Change,” at the ASTC Annual Conference on October 31. Deeply committed to bringing people together for social change, Ansari spoke of the great potential she sees in science centers for inspiring curiosity, creativity, and action on societal issues.

“One thing we need to do is make sure we cultivate imagination in young kids,” Ansari said. “Science centers are wonderful, wonderful places to do that.”

When Anousheh Ansari immigrated to the United States from Iran as a teenager, she did not speak English. Within a few years, she had earned a degree in electronics and computer engineering and a master’s degree in electrical engineering. Since then, she has launched two technology companies and made headlines as the first female private space explorer, traveling to the International Space Station with Russia’s Soyuz TMA-9 mission in 2006. As an active proponent of world-changing technologies and social entrepreneurship, Ansari works with organizations like ASHOKA and the PARSA Community Foundation to support social entrepreneurs. The Ansari family provided the title sponsorship for the Ansari X Prize, awarded in 2004 to the first nongovernmental entity to launch a reusable manned spacecraft (SpaceShipOne) into space twice within two weeks.

About the image: Anousheh Ansari addresses the 2009 ASTC Annual Conference. Photo by Christine Ruffo

Bonnie VanDorn receives ASTC Fellow Award

October 31st, 2009 - Posted in Annual Conference, Featured by Christine Ruffo

Bonnie VanDorn accepts ASTC Fellow AwardLesley Lewis, ASTC president, and Wit Ostrenko, ASTC immediate past president, presented retiring ASTC executive director Bonnie VanDorn with the Fellow Award for Outstanding Contribution “for leading ASTC from its modest beginnings to a truly global community of science center professionals, while simultaneously expanding the size, stature, and strength of the entire field. Bonnie used a reflective encyclopedic knowledge of ASTC’s members—the people they employ, the challenges they face, and the audiences they serve—to help build capacity, nurture creativity, and cultivate inclusiveness in all. Buoyant, brilliant, inquisitive, and persevering, she steered ASTC’s course steadfastly for 27 years, earning our deepest admiration and respect.”

The ASTC Fellow Award for Outstanding Contribution, first presented in 1974, is bestowed upon individuals who merit special recognition for their significant contributions to the advancement of public understanding and appreciation of science and technology or of ASTC itself.

About the image: Bonnie VanDorn accepts the ASTC Fellow Award.

Ten years of the ASTC Diversity and Leadership Development Fellows Program

October 30th, 2009 - Posted in Annual Conference, Featured by Laura Huerta Migus

DSC_0136This year marks the 10th anniversary of ASTC’s Diversity and Leadership Development Fellows Program, designed to support people of color in the science center field and to increase the diversity of delegates at the ASTC Annual Conference. In response to the ever-changing nature of equity and diversity issues, eligibility criteria have since been expanded to include individuals with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender professionals as well. Since the launch of the Fellowship, more than 100 science center professionals have participated in the program.

Fellows will participate in a number of intensive personal and professional development experiences at conference over the next few days, including a full-day workshop on October 30 facilitated by ASTC staff, Alumni Fellows, and members of the ASTC Equity and Diversity committee. The Fellows experience will continue throughout the conference, with regular lunchtime meetings to discuss conference experiences and brainstorm session ideas for future ASTC conferences.

There are a number of opportunities for conference attendees to support the Fellowship program. Stop by the ASTC Resource Center in the Exhibit Hall to watch the special 10th anniversary retrospective video and pick up your “Equity & Diversity Advocate” badge ribbon. Also, don’t miss your chance to meet other advocates at the Advocates for Diversity Networking Reception on the evening of October 31.

Perhaps the best (and most fun) way to support the program is by attending the Fiesta After the Feast Dance Party, following the ASTC banquet on October 31, in the Piney Woods Ballroom at the Sheraton. Close out the first day of conference dancing the night away at this “spooktacular” Halloween bash. Costumes are encouraged, and you may even be rewarded for your creativity. All proceeds from this event directly support future ASTC Fellows. Tickets for the party will be available at registration ($25) and at the door ($35).

About the image: ASTC Diversity and Leadership Fellows and Alumni. Photo by Christine Ruffo

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