Q&A with Rabiah Mayas: Taking Science Beyond Lab Coats

October 23rd, 2014 - Posted in 2014, Dimensions, Q&A by Emily Schuster

Interviewed by Joelle Seligson

This interview appeared in the November/December 2014 issue of Dimensions magazine.

“An old person in a lab coat”: This is the stereotypical image of a scientist that Rabiah Mayas works to dismiss. As director of science and integrated strategies at the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI), Chicago, Mayas helps fulfill the museum’s mission to inspire and motivate children of all backgrounds to achieve their full potential in science, technology, engineering, and medicine.

Read the full transcript, or listen to the podcast below.

About the image: Rabiah Mayas in the Fab Lab. Photo by J.B. Spector/Museum of Science and Industry

Celebrating Community Engagement

September 3rd, 2014 - Posted in 2014, Dimensions by Alejandro Asin

September/October 2014

Science centers and museums are community-focused institutions. In this issue, we explore many ways science centers are engaging and empowering people in all parts of their communities. Working alongside community members and partners, science centers are addressing key issues, from protecting the environment, to increasing high school graduation rates, to developing the science, technology, engineering, and math workforce. By involving community members in the co-creation of exhibitions or programs, science centers are building a sense of ownership while incorporating community voices and talents to create something greater than what could have been produced in house. To reach new audiences, science centers are bringing programs to people where they are, whether through festival events in underserved urban neighborhoods, mobile outreach to rural areas, or even science education in prisons. And centers and their communities are supporting each other in times of disaster or unrest, highlighting the key role that science centers play in community life.

• Learning Conversations: Inviting Community Partnership in a Science Center, by Wit Ostrenko and Fred Steier
• Building an Exhibition One Relationship at a Time, by Jason Bosher
• A Kaleidoscope of Stories from the People of La Guajira, Colombia, by Sigrid Falla and Augusto Reyes
• From Fossils to Face Masks: Connecting with Collections in Alaska, by Theresa Bakker
• From Downtown to Across the State: Taking a Central Role in STEM Education in Arizona, by Michele A. Meyer
Science Festivals: Celebrations of Science Around the World
• Six Ways to Make Your Science Festival Unforgettable, by Natalie Ireland
• Community Engagement in the Wake of Disaster
Into the Light: Bringing Science Education to the Incarcerated, by Nalini Nadkarni
• Engaging Families of Incarcerated Individuals, by John Polatch

Online Departments:
From the CEO: The communities (in which) we serve
Viewpoints: If you could change one thing about the science center and museum field, what would it be?
Q&A with Molly Paul: Turtle power

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Science Festivals: Celebrations of Science Around the World

September 2nd, 2014 - Posted in 2014, Dimensions by Emily Schuster

This is an extended version of an article that appeared in the September/October 2014 issue of Dimensions magazine.

A growing number of science festivals are now taking place across the world every year. In the United States alone, around four dozen new science festival initiatives have emerged in just the past five years. Each science festival is the unique product of its own cultural geography, community, and leadership. They vary dramatically in scope, but many of these vibrant celebrations of science and technology are multiday, multivenue celebrations featuring scores—or even hundreds—of events across a region.

Into the Light: Bringing Science Education to the Incarcerated

September 2nd, 2014 - Posted in 2014, Dimensions by Alejandro Asin

By Nalini Nadkarni
From Dimensions
September/October 2014

Science belongs everywhere. Although informal science learning typically takes place in the bright spots of society—our museums, botanical gardens, and science centers—some science educators are creating programs for individuals who live in the darker parts of our communities, such as prisons. Over 2 million people are in prison in the United States, with a national recidivism level of over 70%. Yet men and women who are incarcerated can also participate in science learning and contribute to conservation projects.

The Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) brings science and nature to inmates in prisons and jails by forging partnerships among academics, corrections staff, and conservationists. Dan Pacholke and I co-founded the SPP at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, in 2005. Partially supported by the National Science Foundation, the SPP has now expanded to more than 20 prisons and jails in seven states. SPP activities, which vary from one correctional facility to another, include science lectures, efforts to raise endangered species, and sustainability projects within the facilities, such as gardening or recycling.

The Communities (in which) We Serve

September 1st, 2014 - Posted in 2014, Dimensions, From the CEO by Anthony (Bud) Rock

Delving into the subject of community engagement, I stumbled upon an instructive approach proposed in 2011 by the (U.S.) National Institutes of Health (NIH). In the context of community-based health policy, NIH suggested that community engagement may be defined in two ways: first, relating to the target community in need of health care services, and second, referring to the wider community in which health care facilities must operate and coordinate to be effective.

In both of these definitions of community engagement there are close parallels to the work of our science centers and museums. Our missions are frequently defined by the target communities that we strive to impact—youth, lifelong learners, students, educators, underserved communities, the highly motivated, and more. At the same time, we know that our successes depend upon our ability to reflect the wider communities in which we exist and to collaborate effectively with people who share geographic proximity but are often diverse in culture, economics, skills, and interests.

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