ASTC Update: Three ASTC members receive IMLS/MacArthur Learning Labs grant, four more to partner with awarded libraries

November 13th, 2012 - Posted in ASTC News, Featured, Member News, Professional Development by Larry Hoffer

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced November 8 that three ASTC-member institutions—the Lawrence Hall of Science, Berkeley, California; Madison Children’s Museum, Wisconsin; and the Science Museum of Virginia Foundation, Richmond—were among the second round of winners of a U.S.-wide competition to design 21st Century learning labs in museums and libraries around the country.

The winners—five museums and seven libraries—will receive a total of $1.2 million in grants to plan and design the labs. Inspired by YOUMedia, a teen space at the Chicago Public Library, and innovations in science and technology centers, these labs will help young people move beyond consuming content to making and creating it.

In addition to the three ASTC members that received Learning Labs grants, four additional ASTC members—Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Las Vegas Natural History Museum, Nevada; Lied Discovery Children’s Museum, Las Vegas, Nevada; and Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas, Texas—will partner with awarded libraries in their communities.

Each Learning Lab will be designed to facilitate a research-based education model known as connected learning–one that promotes discovery, creativity, critical thinking and real-world learning through activities and experiences that bring together academics and young people’s interests, often facilitated by digital and traditional media. The labs will connect teens to mentors and peers, as well as anytime, anywhere access to information through online social networks, so they can pursue their interests more deeply and connect these new skills to academics, career, and civic engagement.

ASTC CEO Anthony (Bud) Rock remarked, “We are very excited about the continued success of the Learning Labs program. Science centers and museums nurture the innovative spirit so crucially needed for success in today’s world, and using digital media to further ignite the excitement of our nation’s youth about lifelong STEM learning will ensure that future generations cultivate the skills they need, such as problem solving, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. The fact that three of the five museums named as grant recipients are science centers is an exciting testament to the strength of our field as an incubator of innovation in our communities.”

The 12 recipients of this round of grants were selected out of a pool of 105 applicants from 33 states. Applications were evaluated by professionals with relevant expertise in digital media and learning. Winners will participate—in-person and online—in a community of practice that will provide technical assistance, networking, and cross-project learning. In addition to the Lawrence Hall of Science, Madison Children’s Museum, and the Science Museum of Virginia Foundation, those institutions selected as grant recipients include: University of Alabama/Alabama Museum of Natural History, Tuscaloosa; Rochester Public Library, New York; City of Lynn, Massachusetts (Lynn Public Library); Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, Nevada; Parmly Billings Library Foundation, Inc., Billings, Montana; Pima County Public Library, Tucson, Arizona; and Poughkeepsie Public Library District, New York.

These grantees join 12 other communities also planning new learning centers in libraries and museums as a part of the Learning Labs in Libraries and Museums project. The initiative was first announced in September 2010 in response to President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign, an effort to foster cross-sector collaboration to improve America’s students’ participation and performance in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Since then, MacArthur and IMLS have committed to invest $4 million to support knowledge-sharing activities for museums and libraries nationwide, and work together to create new Learning Labs across the nation.

For more information about the Learning Labs project, visit www.imls.gov or www.Youmedia.org.

New grants help museums and libraries connect youth with friends, learning, and mentors to link their passions to future success

November 8th, 2012 - Posted in ASTC News, Featured, Member News, Partners by Larry Hoffer

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today announced the second round of winners of a national competition to design 21st century Learning Labs in museums and libraries around the country. The 12 winners—five museums and seven libraries—will receive a total of $1.2 million in grants to plan and design the labs. Inspired by YOUmedia, a teen space at the Chicago Public Library, and innovations in science and technology centers, these labs will help young people move beyond consuming content to making and creating it.

Each Learning Lab will be designed to facilitate a research-based education model known as connected learning—one that promotes discovery, creativity, critical thinking, and real-world learning through activities and experiences that bring together academics and young people’s interests, often facilitated by digital and traditional media. The labs will connect teens to mentors and peers, as well as anytime, anywhere access to information through online social networks, so they can pursue their interests more deeply and connect these new skills to academics, career, and civic engagement.

“Digital media are revolutionizing the way young people learn, socialize, and engage in civic life,” said Julia Stasch, Vice President of U.S. Programs for the MacArthur Foundation. “These innovative labs are designed to provide today’s youth with the space, relationships, and resources to connect their social worlds and interests with academics, and to better prepare them for success in the 21st century.”

“Because of the expertise and content we have to offer, museums and libraries are uniquely positioned to offer young people meaningful learning experiences that link to science, art, and technology,” said Susan Hildreth, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “With caring mentors and skilled professionals on staff to guide teens in their exploration, Learning Labs help youth express themselves and hone their skills in a safe environment.”

The new Learning Labs are planned for: Dallas, TX; Madison, WI; Rochester, NY; Oakland, CA; Billings, MT; Poughkeepsie, NY; Tucson, AZ; Richmond, VA; Tuscaloosa, AL; Pittsburgh, PA; Lynn, MA; and Las Vegas, NV. Each of the winning institutions will match funds from the competition and is developing partnerships with local educational, cultural, civic and business organizations to expand the resources available to build a network of learning opportunities for young people.

These grantees join 12 other communities also planning new learning centers in libraries and museums as a part of the Learning Labs in Libraries and Museums project. The initiative was first announced in September 2010 in response to President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign, an effort to foster cross-sector collaboration to improve America’s students’ participation and performance in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Since then, MacArthur and IMLS have committed to invest $4 million to support knowledge-sharing activities for museums and libraries nationwide, and work together to create new Learning Labs across the nation.

Urban Libraries Council (ULC) and the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) will continue to manage and guide the Learning Lab grantee community to ensure that each new space embodies best practice principles, based on research and evidence in the field of youth digital learning, to help young people gain 21st century skills and an effective STEM education.

The 12 recipients of this round of grants were selected out of a pool of 105 applicants from 33 states and one territory. Applications were evaluated by professionals with relevant expertise in digital media and learning, as well as museum and library management. Winners will participate—in-person and online—in a community of practice that will provide technical assistance, networking, and cross-project learning. To learn more about the Learning Labs Project, visit www.imls.gov or Youmedia.org.

Institutions receiving grants in this round are: Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX; Madison Children’s Museum, Madison, WI; The Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley; Science Museum of Virginia Foundation, Richmond; University of Alabama/Alabama Museum of Natural History, Tuscaloosa; Rochester Public Library, Rochester, NY; Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; City of Lynn, Massachusetts (Lynn Public Library); Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, Las Vegas, NV; Parmly Billings Library Foundation, Inc., Billings, MT; Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ; and Poughkeepsie Public Library District, Poughkeepsie, NY.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grantmaking, policy development and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov or follow @US_IMLS on Twitter.

About the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Initiative
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society. The Foundation’s digital media and learning initiative aims to determine how digital media are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life. The goal is to build a base of evidence about how young people learn today, in an effort to re-imagine learning in the 21st century. To learn more, please visit: www.macfound.org/learning or follow us on Twitter @macfound.

About the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC)
The Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) is a global organization providing collective voice and professional support for science centers, museums, and related institutions, whose innovative approaches to science learning inspire people of all ages about the wonders and the meaning of science in their lives. Through strategic alliances and global partnerships, ASTC strives to increase awareness of the valuable contributions its members make to their communities and the field of informal STEM learning. Founded in 1973, ASTC now represents over 600 members in 45 countries, including not only science centers and museums, but also nature centers, aquariums, planetariums, zoos, botanical gardens, and natural history and children’s museums, as well as companies, consultants, and other organizations that share an interest in informal science education. For more information on ASTC, or to find a science center near you, please visit www.astc.org or follow us on Twitter @sciencecenters.

About the Urban Libraries Council
Urban Libraries Council (ULC) is a membership organization made up of North America’s premier public library systems and the corporations supporting them. While ULC’s members primarily represent urban and suburban settings, the work done by ULC is widely used by all libraries including those in rural settings. ULC strategically addresses issues important to all communities including education, workforce and economic development, public safety, environmental sustainability, health, and wellness. ULC’s members are thought leaders dedicated to the continuous evolution and strengthening of libraries to meet changing community needs. ULC’s focus is on helping library leaders develop and utilize skills and strategies that match the challenges of the 21st century. Learn more at www.urbanlibraries.org or follow us on Twitter @UrbanLibCouncil.

Three elected to serve on ASTC’s Board of Directors

October 19th, 2012 - Posted in ASTC News, Featured, Member News by Larry Hoffer

Guy Labine, CEO, Science North, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada; Tit Meng (TM) Lim, chief executive, Singapore Science Centre, Singapore; and Alexander Zwissler, executive director and CEO, Chabot Space and Science Center, Oakland, CA, were recently elected to ASTC’s Board of Directors, and officially took office October 16, at the close of ASTC’s 2012 Annual Conference in Columbus, OH. In addition to Labine, Lim, and Zwissler, David Mosena, president and CEO, Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, and Carol Valenta, senior vice president, Saint Louis Science Center, were re-elected to a second three-year term.

The Association’s officers—ASTC President Bryce Seidl, president and CEO, Pacific Science Center, Seattle; Vice President Linda Conlon, chief executive, International Centre for Life, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom; Secretary/Treasurer Chevy Humphrey, president and CEO, Arizona Science Center, Phoenix; and Member-at-Large Joanna Haas, executive director, Kentucky Science Center, Louisville—were re-elected to serve the second year of their two-year terms. (Immediate Past President Nancy Stueber, president and CEO, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Portland, also serves on ASTC’s Executive Committee.)

Board members continuing their terms included: Dennis Bartels, executive director, Exploratorium, San Francisco; David Chesebrough, president and CEO, COSI, Columbus, OH; Ann Fumarolo, president and CEO, Sci-Port: Louisiana’s Science Center, Shreveport; Nohora Elisabeth Hoyos, executive director, Maloka, Bogota, Colombia; Ronen Mir, general director, MadaTech: Israel National Museum of Science, Technology, and Space, Haifa; Neville Petrie, CEO, Science Alive! New Zealand’s Science Centre, Christchurch; Stephanie Ratcliffe, executive director, The Wild Center, Tupper Lake, NY; and Barry Van Deman, president and CEO, Museum of Life and Science, Durham, NC. With her resignation as president and executive director of the Great Lakes Science Center, Cleveland, Linda Abraham-Silver stepped down from the Board at the end of her term.

Navigating the Afterschool Landscape: Policy, Research, and Funding

October 15th, 2012 - Posted in ASTC News, Annual Conference, Featured by Larry Hoffer

(Session summary by Sean Smith, ASTC’s director of government and public relations)

On Sunday afternoon, ASTC 2012 Annual Conference attendees had the opportunity to learn about ways in which to engage comprehensive afterschool programs as partners in STEM education. Session leader Anita Krishnamurthi (Director of STEM Policy, Aftershool Alliance), along with panelists Victoria Wegener (Lead Facilitator, Afterschool Technical Assistance Collaborative, Mainspring Consulting) and Debbie Zipes (Executive Director, Indiana Afterschool Network), shared effective practices, available funding streams, and federal policy issues that affect afterschool providers, while also presenting results from a recent study on defining STEM learning outcomes in afterschool.

The session, Navigating the Afterschool Landscape: Policy, Research, and Funding, began with an overview of what “afterschool” really means, then offered some statistics that helped frame the current state of affairs: here in the United States, 8.4 million kids (15%) participate in afterschool programs, while 15.1 million kids (26%) are on their own afterschool. According to the Afterschool Alliance, an additional 18.5 million kids would participate in a quality program if one were offered in their community—from an ASTC member perspective, then, the need certainly exists. But what can supporters of afterschool do to make the case for increased funding and opportunities? Fortunately, according to the panelists, there is tremendous bipartisan support for the issue. Messages that seems to resonate include the themes of keeping kids safe, helping working parents, and inspiring learners at an early age (which the Afterschool Alliance wants to get out even more).

A number of recent surveys and reports have focused on afterschool, including those from the Afterschool Alliance and Change the Equation and Nielson, which found that less than 20% of households have children enrolled in STEM afterschool programs, and that participation is especially low among elementary and high school students, perhaps because of a recent emphasis on middle school STEM.

What are some outcomes of learning—particuarly STEM learning in afterschool? We know now that they include: inspiring and engaging kids; building skills and proficiencies; and inspiring kids to pursue STEM majors and careers. And we may know more soon, as an ongoing Delphi study aims to delve into specific outcomes, indicators, and sub-indicators that the afterschool field can deliver. The study is currently wrapping up and a report may be ready as early as December.

With these studies in mind, Krishnamurthi reported on the number of U.S. federal programs that provide funding streams for afterschool. There are more than 100, including those offered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Science Foundation, and, of course, the Department of Education, which offers the only federal program that exclusively targets afterschool, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. ASTC members will be pleased to learn that the program is ramping up its STEM empahsis, and now offers more support for the area. A look at the federal STEM education investment overall shows $3 billion in annual funding across the federal science mision agencies; the Office of Science and Technology Policy is working on a strategic plan to better coordinate these investments.

The conversation then turned to the National Network of Statewide Afterschool Networks, which was established by the C.S. Mott Foundation in 2002. Networks are public-private partnerships that are designed to provide intentional and meaningful bridges between leaders of schools, communities, and families in order to support student learning. There are currently 41 networks, and the numbers are growing. Networks include a range of partners, like state education, health and human services, and workforce offices, elected officials, etc. Attendees—and ASTC members who were not able to attend this year’s conference—were encouraged to visit the National Network’s website, www.statewideafterschoolnetworks.net, where they will be able to find detailed information on each existing state network, contact information available for state leads, and more. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the contacts in your state—Wegener reported that they are expecting to hear from you as a result of this session!

The session closed with insightful comments from Zipes, head of the Indiana Afterschool Network, who shared some practical steps for building an effective statewide afterschool STEM system, including: establishing the leadership team; creating a shared mission, vision, and goals; securing funding and resources; focusing on professional development; undergoing evaluation; and even advocacy efforts. Zipes reported that they have recently developed afterschool STEM standards for Indiana, which didn’t previously exist. Their work includes an online assessment tool for initial afterschool standards, which is scheduled to be launched in January—your feedback is welcomed. Zipes concluded with some great advice for those interested in cultivating great STEM afterschool partnerships in their state: (1) Ask for advice; (2) Stay true to what you’re great at; (3) Engage experts outside your area of expertise; and (4) You can accomplish anything if you don’t care who gets the credit.

Brief Educational Session Recaps: Sunday, October 14

October 15th, 2012 - Posted in ASTC News, Annual Conference, Featured by Larry Hoffer

(Recaps written by Kenzie Moore, COSI membership processing associate and ASTC 2012 communications volunteer)

Teens Teach Space: Engaging Youth in Planetarium Programming
Museums are relying more and more on a teen/youth-based volunteer pool, but how do you make sure that both the teen and the center are getting the most out of the partnership? Two presenters from space centers in the U.S. shared with ASTC attendees their biggest takeaway points from their recent years involving teens in planetarium programs. Important details for institutions just beginning to wade into teen- and youth-focused involvement? Teens need more support and training to get the requisite presentational skills, the adults working with teens need clear scaffolding of what is expected of them in a leadership or cooperative role, and teens frequently benefit from having a chance to practice their roles. The key takeaway for centers with an established youth program? Give teens a chance to shine. Give them a voice in the scheduling of programs they’ll be involved with, get their feedback about what kind of programming or hands-on activities they’d like to do. It’s their center too.

Membership Best Practices Roundtable
It’s no news that members are an important part of any successful museum, but some of the ideas flying around the room today were certainly new ways of approaching those members. From installation payments instead of yearly payments to in-depth tracking of the unique ways each member uses their membership, the roundtable featured newly established practices, a few tales of development missteps, and a healthy dose of reminders to not reinvent the wheel. Members are special, and should be treated as such, but moving forward, shouldn’t we take every chance to personalize our approach to groups of similar members? Just how big of a role do the benefits play in a member’s perceived value of their relationship which your institution? (Hint: a big one.)

Bring the Noise: Doing Demonstrations with Sound
A demonstration doesn’t have to be expensive, and it doesn’t have to be something you can only do in the safety of your home base. A series of glasses filled with varying levels of water. A popsicle stick with string, paper, pencil erasers, and a rubber band. A cheap, corrugated plastic tube. Any of these can be turned into a quick, cheap, hands-on demonstration appropriate for in-house or outreach efforts. You can acquire these simply supplies just about anywhere and what you can’t find in a store, you can order through science supply services. Noise demonstrations can be interesting, budget-friendly, and very interactive. A Slinky makes the invisible (sound waves) visible. PVC pipes, ethanol, and a lighter can make a fascinating visual display while coaching kids through observations about wavelength and pitch. If you’re really gutsy, you can even buy a bullwhip to show what happens when you break a sound wave. Just, please, for your safety and the viewers’, watch the training videos.

© Association of Science - Technology Centers Incorporated