Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum, Albuquerque, New Mexico, was presented with a 2010 National Medal for Museum and Library Service by U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House ceremony. The award is given annually by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to museums and libraries in recognition of their extraordinary civic, educational, economic, environmental, and social contributions. IMLS is the primary source of U.S. federal funding for museums and libraries.
The ceremony highlighted how the awardees’ programs have benefited individual community members. By partnering with Explora, Sara Keeney has discovered new passion and possibilities for education. As principal for the past 10 years of Los Padillas Elementary School—located in a semi-rural area where families struggle—Sara has found fresh approaches for engaging teachers, students, and their parents by working through inquiry-based programs at Explora. Teachers comment that Explora’s unique professional development opportunities have changed their classroom methods and activities. Families rave about Explora Family Science Night, the school’s best-attended family event. Watching families interact in thought-provoking experiments is deeply meaningful to Sara, who knows these activities will ripple throughout the child’s life in family conversations, learning potential and career choices. Most of Sara’s work has been in minority and high poverty schools like Los Padillas where 60 percent of the students are English language learners, and the school qualifies for 100 percent free lunches. According to Sara, “Our families are engaged in survival, but Explora helped us reach out to them in ways we hadn’t thought of.”
In addition to the National Medal, each awardee institution receives $10,000 and visit from StoryCorps, an independent, nonprofit, oral history project that records conversations with community members that can be shared through a free CD and are preserved at the Library of Congress.
About the image: Community member Sara Keeney and Explora director Patrick Lopez accept the National Medal from U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama. Photo courtesy IMLS