ASTC recognizes award winners

October 20th, 2013 - Posted in ASTC News, Annual Conference, Featured, Member News by Larry Hoffer

 During the first annual Leadership and Awards Luncheon (sponsored by Blackbaud) on October 19, ASTC presented its Fellow Award, the Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Awards, and a special resolution from the Association’s Board of Directors, recognizing an individual for lifetime achievement and significant contributions to the public understanding of science.

The annual Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Awards (sponsored by Hands On! Inc.) were presented to two institutions and one individual. Sciencenter, Ithaca, New York, was honored in the Business Practice Category; Science Alive! The New Zealand Science Centre, Christchurch, was recognized in the Visitor Experience Category; and Asger H√łeg, executive director of Experimentarium in Hellerup, Denmark, received the award for Experienced Leadership in the Field. Read more about this year’s recipients at

ASTC’s Board of Directors voted earlier this year to recognize Dr. Gunther von Hagens for lifetime achievement and significant contributions to the public understanding of science. Through the technique of Plastination, and the BODY WORLDS exhibitions, von Hagens has revealed the intricate architecture and systems of the human body and allowed us to see that our bodies are at least as beautiful under the surface as they are from outside. In the tradition of the great anatomists, he made the study of the human body accessible to the public audience, without requiring medical training. Throughout the world, millions of science center visitors have viewed these exhibitions and been inspired, curious, touched, and forever changed.

The ASTC Fellow Award, the Association’s highest honor, was presented to Jeffrey N. Rudolph, president and CEO of the California Science Center. The text of Rudolph’s Fellow Award read:

For not only transforming the California Science Center into a premier institution, but for providing exemplary leadership to ASTC as President, developing a strategic planning process to help guide the Association’s future. During his years of service, Jeff has exemplified collaboration and displayed a good-natured collegiality and willingness to serve not just his science center, but the entire field. His impact on ASTC and STEM education has been profound.

An interview with Rudolph appears in the November/December issue of ASTC’s Dimensions magazine. Visit for more information.

ASTC congratulates all of these worthy award winners, and acknowledges the work of the Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Award Jury, as well as ASTC’s Nominating Committee, for identifying these honorees.

NCSE Executive Director Eugenie Scott opens ASTC 2013

October 20th, 2013 - Posted in ASTC News, Annual Conference, Featured by Larry Hoffer

ASTC’s 2013 Annual Conference officially began Saturday, October 19. The executive directors of the three host institutions—Jim Walther, National Museum of Nuclear Science and History; Joe Hastings, Explora; and Charlie Walter, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, greeted attendees and shared that this first-ever collaboration among three museums to host ASTC’s conference promised “three times the welcome, three times the learning, and three times the fun.”

Following welcomes from New Mexico Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez and Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), delivered the opening keynote address. She quickly won over the audience by proclaiming, “I am a sucker for science centers and museums.” (She later admitted to being a member of every science center in the San Francisco Bay Area.)

Scott discussed the NCSE’s battle against those entities which challenge the teaching of evolution and climate change by museums and other institutions, saying, “Science literacy is at risk.”

She shared the NCSE’s “Pillars of Creationism,” three tenets around which the battles against evolution and climate change are founded:

  • Evolution is a “theory in crisis,” the argument that scientists no longer believe in evolution
  • Evolution and faith are incompatible
  • To be “fair,” teachers should teach both evolution and creationism, thus avoiding critical thinking and dogma

Scott advised audience members that theories of creationism and intelligent design haven’t earned the right to be presented in science centers and museums. “Your job is to present and interpret science, not to produce science.” She said that the burden of proof is on those espousing creationism, not those teaching the scientifically reinforced theory of evolution.

“Science is not a democratic procedure. We don’t vote on how the natural world operates.” She concluded by saying that if the consensus of scientists eventually disprove evolution, then and only then should museums teach creationism. But until then, she reminded the audience that, “Science isn’t an aspect of listening to all views; we listen to those that work.”

Standard Practice

October 19th, 2013 - Posted in Annual Conference by Emily Schuster

On Saturday, October 19, a standing-room-only crowd gathered at ASTC 2013 to discuss a topic that will impact both formal and informal science educators around the United States: the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The interactive session, entitled, “PD, NGSS, Science Centers, and Schools . . . Oh My!”, was led by Sharon Kortman, vice president of learning, and RaeAnn Fox, director of youth learning and engagement, both at Arizona Science Center in Phoenix. Kortman served as a reviewer for the NGSS.

Twenty-six U.S. states, along with the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and other partners, led the development of the NGSS, which complement the Common Core State Standards for Literacy in Science. The NGSS are composed of three dimensions: practices, cross-cutting concepts, and content/disciplinary core ideas.

Kortman and Fox encouraged attendees to choose one program they are already implementing in their institutions and determine how it corresponds with the new standards. They pointed out that because science centers and museums already embody the kind of inquiry-based, integrated learning that the NGSS promotes, they can serve as a bridge between formal education environments and the new standards. Science centers can provide professional development opportunities to help demystify the standards for teachers and administrators, and to help them to feel comfortable with science.

“We [science centers and museums] are going to be instrumental. We’re going to help lead the field in changing what teaching and learning look like,” said Kortman.

21st Century Learning in Natural History Museums

October 19th, 2013 - Posted in Annual Conference by Christine Ruffo

New Mexico Museum of Natural History and ScienceIn Feburary 2012, the National Science Foundation funded a conference in Washington, D.C. about how to increase the relevancy of natural history museums in the 21st century. On October 18 during a full-day workshop at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, ASTC 2013 attendees continued the conversation about natural history museums’ roles, and the development of a learning research agenda to inform this process.

Workshop leaders presented the Call to Action (“Declaration of Interdependence“) and Learning Research Agenda that are being developed through the 21st Century Learning in Natural History Settings Wiki. Case studies were also presented, and participants had opportunities to observe staff engaging visitors in activities on the museum floor. Participants discussed how they can best collaborate to achieved shared goals including being places where the complex challenges of the future are met in an open, honest, inclusive, and rational way and being welcoming to all people, not just their traditional constituents.

Photo by Christine Ruffo

Welcome to Albuquerque!

October 19th, 2013 - Posted in ASTC News, Annual Conference, Featured by Larry Hoffer

 More than 1,600 attendees (with more to come) representing 43 countries across the globe have gathered in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the start of the 2013 ASTC Annual Conference, hosted by Explora, the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

With over 100 sessions and workshops; and keynote presentations featuring Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education (on Saturday), Ramu Damodaran, deputy director for partnerships and public engagement for the United Nations’ Outreach Division (on Sunday), and a conversation with best-selling author Neal Stephenson, Ed Finn, director of Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, and Alexander Zwissler, executive director and CEO of Chabot Space and Science Center; as well as numerous networking opportunities, ASTC 2013 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 2013 Annual Conference online. Follow us on Twitter (@sciencecenters), and join in the conversation using hashtag #astc2013. Photos and videos will also be posted on Instagram (follow @sciencecenters and post your own using #astc2013), and on our ASTCvideos YouTube channel. The ASTC Conference Blog will also be updated Saturday through Tuesday.

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