A Time to Heal

October 18th, 2014 - Posted in Annual Conference by Emily Schuster

When museums and hospitals work together, the resulting partnerships can “bring joy to families going through hard times,” according to Ann Hernandez of Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, Michigan. In addition to helping patients and their families, these partnerships can be mutually beneficial to both the museums and hospitals themselves, as panelists explained in the ASTC 2014 session “Building Community Partnerships: Hospitals and Museums Realize Shared Healing Connections.”

The session was moderated by Hernandez and led by Andrea Reynolds, also of Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. Presenters included both hospital and museum professionals: Julie Piazza of CS Mott Children’s and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, Ann Arbor, Michigan; Kurt Huffman of COSI, Columbus, Ohio; and Kristofer Kelly-Frère of TELUS Spark, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Staff from both Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and Mott Hospital have visited each other’s institutions to present programs—including a Teddy Bear Clinic held at the museum, where visitors learned about the hospital environment and staff roles. The partnership has also involved training volunteers willing to work at both the museum and the hospital. In addition, Mott Hospital has held a focus group at the museum where patients, families, and hospital and museum staff brainstormed ideas for exhibits that would bring an element of the museum into the hospital.

Before opening its facility in 2011, TELUS Spark prototyped exhibits at Alberta Children’s Hospital. Kelly-Frère pointed out, “If you only prototype in your institution, you’re only reaching the audience you already have. If you want to reach new audiences, you have to go out and find them.” Prototyping in the hospital allowed TELUS Spark to design exhibits that accounted for different abilities and family dynamics.

COSI uses videoconferencing to allow students to watch live knee surgeries at Mount Carmel Hospital and ask the surgeons questions, view a videotape of an autopsy accompanied by live narration by a pathologist resident from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, or talk to pharmacists housed at Labs in Life within COSI itself. Huffman explained that these programs help hospital staff increase their communication skills and learn about hands-on inquiry and 21st-century skills.

The presenters discussed many of the special issues involved with museum/hospital partnerships—including designing activities and materials with infection prevention and control in mind; training hospital staff in how to deliver messages in ways children can understand; and training museum staff in how to talk to patients and to respect patient confidentiality.

Piazza said that museums that partner with hospitals are “bringing distraction, discovery, and excitement. [Patients are] kids first, in the hospital second. They’re not their diagnosis—they are people.” She also pointed out that museums can support the children of adult hospital patients, as well as the adult patients themselves. “Play is universal,” she said.

Citizen Science Boot Camp

October 17th, 2014 - Posted in Annual Conference by Christine Ruffo

Even before the official start of ASTC 2014, attendees were outside having fun and doing science in Citizen Science Boot Camp. The Friday morning workshop was designed to give participants tools they can use to build their own visitor-centered citizen science programs.

Participants split into groups to “bioblitz” two downtown Raleigh parks, collecting data using iNaturalist, a free mobile app that helps users record and track observations. The groups then analyzed their data, creating graphs of the major taxa for each park—birds, mammals, insects, herbaceous plants/wildflowers, trees, fungi, and “other.” They also discussed how historic differences in the once racially segregated parks might have influenced biodiversity. The workshop ended with an overview and discussion of program evaluation tools.

About the image: In Citizen Science Boot Camp, participants “bioblitzed” local parks and logged their findings using a mobile app.

Welcome to Raleigh!

October 16th, 2014 - Posted in Annual Conference by Mary Mathias

More than 1,500 attendees (with more to come) from around the world have gathered in Raleigh, North Carolina for the start of the 2014 ASTC Annual Conference, hosted by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

With over 110 sessions and workshops; and keynote presentations featuring Dr. Hayat Sindi, UN Science Ambassador and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and Angelo Vermeulen, visual artist, scientist, and community organizer; as well as numerous networking opportunities, ASTC 2014 promises to be an exceptional professional development opportunity for the global science center community.

Whether on-site or from afar, ASTC invites you to follow the 2014 Annual Conference online. Follow us on Twitter (@sciencecenters), and join in the conversation using hashtag #astc2014. Photos and videos will also be posted on Instagram (follow @sciencecenters and post your own using #astc2014), and on our ASTCvideos YouTube channel. The ASTC Conference Blog will also be updated Saturday through Tuesday.

Museum Open House Day & Science in the Park

October 23rd, 2013 - Posted in Annual Conference by Mary Mathias

The final day of the 2013 ASTC Annual Conference was Museum Open House Day, with the three host museums opening their doors to ASTC members. In addition to their regular exhibits, the host museums included a variety of activities and presentations. Explora hosted Meet and Greet sessions with different museum professionals, including volunteer and visitor services coordinators, educators, and marketing and publications staff. They also had activities related to National Chemistry Week, local scientists, and many presentations in the theater, such as a discussion of on digital media art and science.

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (NMMNHS) also held numerous events, such as the presentation “The Neuroscience of Creativity” by Dr. Rex E. Jung of the University of New Mexico, tours of the geoscience and bioscience collections, and tours of the Sandia Mountain Natural History Center. NMMNHS was also host to Big Screen Day screenings of eight different films and four different planetarium demonstrations. The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History opened their doors as well, showing films throughout the day and offering Q&A sessions with the museum registrar and the museum curator.

This year’s Museum Open House Day also featured Science in the Park, during which science centers and museums from across the country gathered in Tiguex Park with demonstrations and activities for local students and the general public. The event was a tremendous success with hundreds of students enjoying a vast array of activities, such as a mini-hot air balloon demonstration, telescope viewing, and bubble stations.

Thank you to the ASTC 2013 host museums!

The Neuroscience of STEM Creativity

October 23rd, 2013 - Posted in Annual Conference by Mary Mathias

During Museum Open House Day on Tuesday, October 22, Dr. Rex E. Jung from the University of New Mexico gave a very informative presentation called The Neuroscience of STEM Creativity at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Dr. Jung has been studying creativity for the past four years but has recently started examining scientific creativity in particular.

Dr. Jung stressed the importance of the distinction between novelty and usefulness when discussing creativity. Something that is truly creative, like what many scientists and innovators produce, is both novel and useful, though the term creativity is used for many things. He then moved on to discuss the phases of scientific revolution: pre-paradigm, folk psychology, theory testing, consensus/normal science, anomalies, revolutionary science, and finally, paradigm shift.

Dr. Jung mixed pop culture references and scientific data to present the steps of cognitive creativity: Preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. He also stressed the importance of downtime for the brain to allow for ideas to assemble and for “eureka!” moments. This research, he says, can have big implications for the structure of education. Dr. Jung is also a proponent of art and science collaboration. He believes that art and science are not so different that we should expect to find that the creativity behind them originates in different areas of the brain.

Dr. Jung also spent time debunking common folk psychologies, such as the left-brained/right-brained traits, and that creativity is produced by geniuses or chemicals. Another interesting discussion was on the subject of brainstorming. Dr. Jung discussed that some research suggests that brainstorming is not the most effective way to produce creative results, due to social conformity and social pressures.

Questions were permitted throughout the presentation and led to very interesting tangents with attendees falling on both sides of the arguments.

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