Born of Place: The Key to Institutional Sustainability

October 14th, 2012 - Posted in ASTC News, Annual Conference, Featured by Larry Hoffer

What does it take to make a science center sustainable, adopted by its community, and defended by its community? In Born of Place: The Key to Institutional Sustainability, a panel composed of Don Weinreich, partner, Ennead Architects; Sarah George, executive director, Natural History Museum of Utah; and Eric Siegel, director/chief content officer, New York Hall of Science, explored the proposition that a cultural institution’s success depends on its ability to define, understand, and root itself in its community. Museums can be a safe place for dangerous dialogue

George shared perspectives gleaned through the exploration, development, and founding of the Natural History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City. She mentioned the importance of developing constituencies by reaching out to schools, the business community, elected officials, donors, and electors. She also discussed the effectiveness of having others in the community speak on your institution’s behalf, particularly business leaders and key officials. Being ready for surprises, listening to those around you, and avoiding overpromising and/or raising expectations unrealistically are also lessons to be learned.

An institution must partner with its constituencies and develop programs and buildings that sustain relevance and grow increasingly vital over time. Siegel also discussed the renovation and reconstruction of the New York Hall of Science’s facility in Queens, New York, as some of the core buildings were built for the 1964 World’s Fair.

Both the Natural History Museum of Utah and the New York Hall of Science partnered with Ennead on their construction needs. Weinreich shared step-by-step explanation and analysis of the processes Ennead followed in the construction of a wholly new museum for NHMU and the reconstruction needs of New York Hall of Science. The insights he provided gave a much clearer picture into the full scope of these processes, from interview and presentation of ideas through to execution.

Brief Educational Session Recaps: Saturday, October 13

October 14th, 2012 - Posted in ASTC News, Annual Conference, Featured by Larry Hoffer

(Session recaps provided by Jeremy Riga, ASTC 2012 communications volunteer from COSI)

We Love Science: Wonderful Discoveries about Our Wondrous World
“I love science. Do our visitors?” A 2010 poll of online readers asked, who do people trust when it comes to science? Scientists are mostly trusted, but that changes depending on the topic. People trust museums as sources of information. Nearly 30% of one museum’s visitors did not share the museum’s view of climate change. A speaker from another institution noticed that some visitors use the evolution display as a platform for teaching creationism. The point is that many visitors love science, but love it in different ways.

Creating Learning Spaces for Young Visitors
COSI wants to document and make visible the impact their work has had. Growing research partners to allow everyone access to the data. From early childhood perspective: height of visuals are important, taking into account kids riding in strollers. Adding small child elements to bigger museum pieces helps the younger audience engage. Dramatic play spaces have enhanced the visit for families. Young imaginations enjoy and appreciate the extra effort.
“My classroom is the museum.”

Communicating Climate Change: Building Global Awareness through Local Citizen Science
One institution uses “citizen scientists” that help them get temperature readings in the sand by having students and families collect data for them outside the museum. They give these people the GPS coordinates of the sensors and can then go locate the sites, download the data, and learn about temperature change and feel part of the process.

Product Demo: Increasing Revenue at Your Venue from a 3D Theater
3D growth: Theatrical, home consumer, aquariums, amusement parks, zoos, science centers, planetariums. 3D increases capture rate an average of 30%, but changes widely by geographical area. Raising revenue means mixing it up: moms and strollers, school groups, families.

Intel futurist Brian David Johnson kicks off ASTC 2012 opening…

October 13th, 2012 - Posted in ASTC News, Annual Conference, Featured by Larry Hoffer

Intel futurist Brian David Johnson helped officially launch ASTC’s 2012 Annual Conference earlier today, as the keynote speaker at the Opening General Session held in the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Johnson, who made a point of explaining to the crowd that as a futurist he does not predict the future, is a self-proclaimed “geek” and a fan of science centers. So much so, in fact, that he disclosed he and his wife were married in the planetarium at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland.

Johnson explained that one of the main objectives of his job is to determine what it will feel like to be a human 10-20 years from now. He took umbrage with the vision of the future put forth in so many movies and books—the vision of a person in a stark, sterile room with the sleekest of electronic devices surrounding them. As he put it, “If we’re going to envision the future, we need to envision a future for people, one that is comfortable.”

“We are all fire hydrants of data,” Johnson said. “We spew data—financial data, social networking data—all over the place. Yet data only has meaning when it comes back and touches the lives of humans. Humans make data and all technology meaningful.”

In his presentation, Waking the Algorithm, Johnson explained that algorithms are imbued with humanity and are, essentially, a story.

He urged the audience not to be passive about the future. “Don’t sit back and let the future happen to you,” he explained. “The future will be awesome because we’re going to build it; why would we build a future that is negative?”

Johnson emphasized the power of science centers and museums in building the future. “You will build the future in the minds of people who come to your science centers,” he said. “You put the visions of science and technology in people’s minds and let them touch it.”

We can change the future, he explained, by changing the story people tell themselves about the future they will live in. We need to focus on making the lives of people better.

“You have an incredible opportunity to shape the future through the work you do,” Johnson concluded. A worthy message to kick off four days of learning, sharing, connecting, and being inspired.

NWP and ASTC Receive NSF Grant to Develop Integrated Science and Literacy Program

October 9th, 2012 - Posted in ASTC News, Featured, Member News, Partners, Professional Development by Larry Hoffer

The National Writing Project (NWP) and the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) have received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to design a program that will integrate science and literacy. As part of this program, Building Informal Science Education and Literacy Partnerships (NSF Grant No. 122461),NWP sites and ASTC-member science centers and museums will forge partnerships to develop innovative programs for educators and youth.

This grant was created to address the critical need for more programming that integrates two very important areas of curriculum – science and literacy,with a strong commitment to expanding access to high quality science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and literacy education. The NWP/ASTC partnership will foster the creation of new program models able to reach a more diverse range of youth and educators, resulting in an infusion of literacy practices in informal settings as well as increased exposure of formal educators to STEM-rich learning experiences.The program will build on recommendations in the Common Core State Standards and the National Research Council’s publication, “A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts and Core Ideas.”

Ten partnerships from across the country will be selected in the coming months with the goal of creating new programs that merge science and writing, as well as building on promising practices and innovations. Partnerships will design projects which may include citizen science projects like The Great Sunflower Project or FoldIt, or science journalism projects such as scijourner, an NSF-funded project based at the University of Missouri-St. Louis College of Education, in collaboration with the Saint Louis Science Center and the Normandy School District.

“Both NWP and ASTC share a long history of working with educators and youth,” said Dr. Sharon J. Washington, NWP Executive Director. “The collaboration of these organizations will generate a multitude of professional development programs for hundreds of informal and formal educators, as well as create rich opportunities for hundreds of young people across the country.”

“We are tremendously energized by the opportunities for collaboration that this project presents,” remarked ASTC Chief Executive Officer Anthony (Bud) Rock. “ASTC-member science centers have a long history of developing programs to target underserved youth, and partnering with NWP sites will foster a greater ability to reach those youth who might develop an interest in STEM through participation in literacy activities. The science center community will truly benefit from the results of this project.”

About NWP:The National Writing Project (NWP) is a nationwide network of educators working together to improve the teaching of writing in the nation’s schools and in other settings. NWP provides high-quality professional development programs to teachers in a variety of disciplines and at all levels, from early childhood through university. Through its nearly 200 university-based sites located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the National Writing Project develops the leadership, programs, and research needed for teachers to help students become successful writers and learners. For more information, visit

About 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 nearly 50 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 about ASTC, or to find a science center near you, visit

ASTC 2012 closing keynote panel to focus on cyberlearning and gaming

July 13th, 2012 - Posted in ASTC News, Annual Conference, Featured by Larry Hoffer

Nicole Lazzaro, world-renowned game designer and researcher, founder of XEODesign, and one of Fast Company’s 100 most influential women in high-tech, and Dr. Michael Evans, associate professor and program area leader in instructional design and technology at Virginia Tech, will anchor the closing keynote panel at ASTC’s 2012 Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio, October 13-16, hosted by COSI. The closing panel on cyberlearning and gaming will be held Tuesday, October 16, and additional panel participants will be announced shortly.

Nicole Lazzaro discovered the Four Keys to Fun in 2004, a model used by hundreds of thousands of game developers worldwide. She used this model to design the iPhone’s first accelerometer game in 2007, now called Tilt World. One of the top 20 women working in video games, and top 10 women in gamification, Nicole’s work has been widely cited by global news media such as Wired, Fast Company, CNN, CNET, The Hollywood Reporter, and Red Herring. She has advised the White House and the U.S. State Department on the use of games to unlock human potential to improve our world. For the past two decades as the CEO of XEODesign she has improved hundreds of millions of player experiences for companies such as Ubisoft, EA, Disney, and Cartoon Network, as well as worked on best selling franchises such as Myst, Diner Dash, Pogo, and The Sims. One of the pioneers in applying game design outside of games, she designed game-inspired UI for Oracle, Cisco, Kaiser, Sun, Roxio, and others as early as 1992.

Dr. Michael Evans received a B.A. and M.A. in psychology from the University of West Florida and a PhD in instructional systems technology from Indiana University. His work focuses on the effects of multimedia methods and technologies on instruction and learning. Current research focuses on the design, development, and evaluation of instructional multimedia for interactive surfaces (personal media devices, smart phones, tablets, tables, and whiteboards) to support collaborative learning as well as the adoption of video game elements for instructional design, particularly for informal settings. Currently, he is Principal Investigator on two current NSF-sponsored projects. The GAMES Project (DRL 1118571) proposes to develop serious mathematical games for tablets and other mobile devices, focusing on pre-algebra readiness and states of engagement. The Studio STEM Project (DRL 1029756) proposes to engage middle school students in science and engineering in an after school setting. Guided by engineering teaching kits, participants work with undergraduate mentors to explore the science of energy as they build-test-rebuild dwellings to protect penguins from climate change. Evans teaches graduate courses in the learning sciences and interactive media design and development. He has published in Educational Technology Research and Development, the International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, and the Journal of Educational Computing Research. More information on projects can be found at the GAMES and Studio STEM websites.

For more information on ASTC’s 2012 Annual Conference, visit

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