Since its founding in 1973, ASTC has been committed to increasing the engagement of all people with science. In support of this commitment, we have implemented a variety of projects to improve members’ understanding of and skills to reach diverse communities. Ten years ago, the ASTC Board formalized this commitment by ratifying the ASTC Equity and Diversity Initiative. Instituted to realize the Board’s vision of ASTC and its member institutions as models of excellence in inclusion, the initiative focuses activities around five components: leadership support, assessment, communication, professional development, and career pipeline/recruitment. ASTC has accomplished much during these first 10 years, including establishing and continuing to support the ASTC Diversity and Leadership Development Fellows Program, and becoming the only museum association with full-time staff solely dedicated to furthering issues of equity and diversity.
ASTC member institutions worldwide share this commitment to diversity. Their innovative efforts serve both current and new audiences, while strengthening overall offerings and reinforcing science centers’ roles as valued community institutions. For example, outreach programs take the science center beyond its walls, often to audiences that cannot easily access the physical building. Online and media partnerships make content and experiences accessible to anyone who watches TV or surfs the Internet. Work-based youth programs follow a tried-and-true model that combines science learning with opportunities to build workplace skills, often reaching young people who might not otherwise participate in youth programs due to cost. In addition, advisory groups leverage relationships with community leaders to provide input on exhibits and programming.
In these and many other ways, science centers are overcoming barriers to extend their reach to audiences who don’t regularly visit. The challenges in reaching these audiences range from lack of interest or motivation to broader social, cultural, and economic dynamics. In each case, centers are challenged to meet audiences where they are—physically, culturally, and philosophically—and by extension, know themselves better as community institutions.
As we embark on the second decade of the ASTC Equity and Diversity Initiative, watch for new tools and programs that will move us toward our vision of ASTC members as models of inclusive institutions. Philosopher and educator John Dewey said, “Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.” With a renewed commitment to engaging diverse audiences in the wonder of science, we can play a pivotal role in nurturing this audacity of imagination in all people.