ASTC Members: Get Involved in the March 2012 “Planet under Pressure” Conference!

November 18th, 2011 - Posted in ASTC News, Member News by Larry Hoffer

Dear ASTC Member:

You and your institution have the opportunity to be part of a significant science-based, global event—and no travel or extra expenditures are required!

The international scientific community will convene in London, March 26-29, 2012, for the worldwide Planet under Pressure: New Knowledge Towards Solutions conference ( leading up to the Rio+20 Earth Summit ( in June 2012. Science centers and science center networks all over world will be organizing activities that run concurrently with those in London.

It’s as easy as 1-2-3, and we want you to participate.

Here’s how to get involved:

1. Between March 26 and March 29, organize any type of event—a debate, a demonstration, a guest speaker, an educational program, even a film—that deals with one of the themes of the Planet under Pressure (PuP) conference. This doesn’t need to be a new event—you may already have something planned for that time period that connects to one of the issues. Do this and you’ll get access to a special Planet under Pressure logo and receive promotional material—including a joint press release with Planet under Pressure—you can use to get recognition from your local community and the media for participating in this global event.

2. Upload information about your PuP-related activities onto a worldwide Google map. When all of the institutions upload their activities, the map will be full, demonstrating the global reach of ASTC members and the international science center community. Following the events, each member will count the number of participants at their site.

3. Here’s what you’ll get in return:

• Scientific documents and video interviews from scientists you can use in your own program, now and later.
• Your visitors will be able to ask questions of scientists via email and/or live during specific Planet under Pressure events (there are a limited number of guaranteed live connections, which will be distributed to ensure geographical diversity; contact ASTC for information).
• Tools to help you ensure your institution gets local recognition for being part of this global effort.
• After the event, data indicating how many people participated in your country and worldwide, to aid further advocacy efforts.
• Feedback on what questions most interest people worldwide.

Why participate? This event will raise your profile, locally and nationally, and position your science center as part of an active global network. This is exactly the kind of “collective action on behalf of science” that was envisioned in the Toronto (2008) and Cape Town (2011) Science Centre World Congress Declarations and your science center can participate, no matter how small or large you are. ASTC wants to promote the presence and visibility of the global science center field at Planet under Pressure and the Rio+20 Earth Summit. It is therefore essential to have as many of its members organizing Planet under Pressure events as possible. This will assist us in establishing solid relationships on your behalf with the international scientific community and international education organizations.

There is strength in numbers and collective action. Many ASTC members are already involved in international activities and we hope to have very strong representation from across the globe. It’s not too soon to start planning your institution’s involvement during PuP; we will be sharing additional resources and information to assist you along the way.

If ASTC can assist you with gaining a better understanding of PuP and the Rio+20 Earth Summit, or discussing possible ideas for activities, please contact Walter Staveloz, director of international relations, at or (202) 783-7200 x118.

National Competition Selects 12 Libraries and Museums to Build Innovative Learning Labs for Teens

November 17th, 2011 - Posted in ASTC News, Featured, Member News, Partners by Larry Hoffer

Today,the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced the first 12 winners of a national competition to build 21st Century learning labs in museums and libraries around the country. The winners—four museums and eight libraries—will receive a total of $1.2 million in grants to plan and design the labs. Inspired by YOUMedia, a new 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.

“This competition was announced in answer to President Obama’s Educate to Innovate campaign, a nationwide effort to bring American students to the forefront in science and math, to provide the workers of tomorrow with the skills they need today,” said Susan Hildreth, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “Libraries and museums are part of re-envisioning learning in the 21st century; they are trusted community institutions where teens can follow their passions and imagine exciting futures.”

“Digital media are profoundly influencing young people’s lives, their behavior, their civic participation, and where and how they learn,” said Robert Gallucci, President of the MacArthur Foundation. “These innovative new teen labs are designed to provide young people with engaging and diverse opportunities for learning and exploration beyond the classroom. The nation’s libraries and museums play an important role in leveling the playing field by providing greater access to learning experiences that equip our young people with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st Century.”

“Digital media are profoundly influencing young people’s lives, their behavior, their civic participation, and where and how they learn,” said Robert Gallucci, President of the MacArthur Foundation. “These innovative new teen labs are designed to provide young people with engaging and diverse opportunities for learning and exploration beyond the classroom. The nation’s libraries and museums play an important role in leveling the playing field by providing greater access to learning experiences that equip our young people with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st Century.”

Locations for the 12 new learning labs include: San Francisco, CA; Thornton, CO; Columbia, MD; St. Paul, MN; Kansas City, MO; New York, NY; Columbus, OH; Portland, OR; Allentown, PA; Philadelphia, PA; Nashville, TN; and Houston, TX.

The learning labs will be based on new research about how young people learn today. Teens will use both digital and traditional media that promote creativity, critical thinking, and hands-on learning. The labs will connect teens to mentors and peers, as well as anytime, anywhere access to informationthrough online social networks so that they can pursue their interests more deeply. The winning institutions will match the funds from the competition and partner with local educational, cultural, and civic organizations to build a network of learning opportunities for young people.

IMLS and MacArthur selected the Urban Libraries Council (ULC) and the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) to manage the competition. They will ensure the new lab locations use 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 98 applicants from 32 states. Applications were evaluated by professionals with relevant expertise in digital media and learning and 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. Application materials for a second round of grants will be available in spring 2012. More information is available at

Click here to view the list of locations that have been selected as part of the first round of a national competition to plan and design 21st Century learning labs in libraries and museums around the country.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit

About the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Initiative
The 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. More information is available at

About the Association of Science-Technology Centers
The Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) is a global nonprofit organization of science centers and museums committed to raising public understanding of science’s role in solving critical societal issues, and its value in igniting and nurturing the innovative spirit that people of all ages need for success in today’s world. ASTC encourages excellence and innovation in informal science learning by serving and linking its members worldwide and advancing their common goals. Founded in 1973, ASTC’s nearly 600 members in 44 countries include not only science centers and museums, but also nature centers, aquariums, planetariums, space centers, 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. Visit to learn more about ASTC and find a science center near you.

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. As ULC celebrates its forty-year anniversary, its work focuses on helping library leaders develop and utilize skills and strategies that match the challenges of the 21st century. Learn more at

EdVenture, Madison Children’s Museums among recipients of 2011 National Medal for Museum and Library Service

November 4th, 2011 - Posted in Featured, Member News by Larry Hoffer

ASTC members EdVenture Children’s Museum in Columbia, South Carolina, and the Madison Children’s Museum in Madison, Wisconsin, were among the 10 libraries and museums selected by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to receive the 2011 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries for extraordinary civic, educational, economic, environmental, and social contributions. Recipients must demonstrate innovative approaches to public service and community outreach.

“Congratulations to each of these organizations on receiving the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The work they have accomplished is an inspiration to libraries and museums throughout the nation,” said Susan Hildreth, IMLS Director. “With innovation, creativity, and a great deal of heart they have achieved an outstanding level of public service.”

In its recognition of EdVenture, IMLS highlighted several programs and initiatives, including: The Big ED Health Initiative, a year-round series of activities promoting healthy life skills, including facilitated programming that demonstrates healthy cooking skills; Body Detectives, a permanent exhibit which opened in 2011 to teach children about chronic disease prevention; World of Work, which allows children to recognize and appreciate the diversity of jobs such as farmer, mechanic, firefighter, scientist, and builder; and EDDIE®, the four-story-high, 17.5-ton, 10-year-old boy which is a hands-on exhibit large enough for children and adults to explore the inner wonders of the human body.

“EdVenture is honored to be recognized by IMLS with The National Medal,” said Catherine Wilson Horne, EdVenture’s President and CEO. “To be selected by IMLS from among the thousands of institutions in the United States is a tribute to our leadership, our staff, our volunteers, and our supporters who all give of themselves to fulfill our mission.”

In recognizing the Madison Children’s Museum (MCM), IMLS cited its strong community engagement. From 2007 to its grand opening in August 2010, MCM involved the community at every opportunity. With a commitment to using only local people and products, MCM engaged some 15,000 citizens who donated money, time, and even artwork. A permanent installation features bottle cap art, made by 13,000 local students. The museum is also proud of programs that enable families with limited means to visit often. They offer a $1 admission for anyone on public assistance, as well as an $8 Family Access annual membership for those on documented public assistance. For adults who are caregivers to both children and elders with early-stage memory loss, MCM also offers SPARK!, an art-making program that engages three generations and often sees children taking on the role of teacher.

“We have been humbled by numerous architectural awards in the past year, but this honor means the most of all because it speaks to the core of our mission: service,” said MCM Executive Director Ruth G. Shelly. “People readily recognize us as a great place for kids to learn through play, but we strive to take service to a deeper level by becoming a resource for parents, educators, and the entire community.”

The National Medal was created to celebrate the vital role museums and libraries play in American society, and is awarded to institutions that have developed innovative ways to serve their communities. In addition to EdVenture and MCM, 2011 recipients included: Alachua County Library District, Gainesville, Florida; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Columbus Metropolitan Library, Ohio; Erie Art Museum, Pennsylvania; Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, Collegeville, Minnesota; Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond, Virginia; San Jose Public Library, California; and Weippe Public Library and Discovery Center, Idaho.

Nominations for the 2012 National Medal are due December 15; the nomination form can be accessed at For more information on the 2011 recipients, visit

California Science Center, Maloka, Sci-Port among MCCA Grant Recipients

July 29th, 2011 - Posted in ASTC News, Featured, Member News by Larry Hoffer

Three ASTC-member institutions were among those museums awarded grants as part of the 2011 Museums & Community Collaborations Abroad (MCCA) program by the American Association of Museums (AAM) and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Recipients of the nine grants included California Science Center in Los Angeles, CA; Maloka in Bogota, Colombia; and Sci-Port: Louisiana’s Science Center in Shreveport, LA. The MCCA initiative pairs museums in the U.S. with museums abroad for a cross-cultural exchange that brings people, especially youth, together to open a dialogue through community projects, partnerships with local or tribal governments and schools, and local events.

“The open dialogue that is established by this museum exchange initiative strengthens people-to-people relationships,” said Ann Stock, assistant secretary of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. “With stronger relationships and greater collaboration, the Museums & Community Collaborations Abroad initiative will achieve shared goals for the benefit of the global community.”

Further details about the 2011 museum-based exchanges can be found after the break.

Rainforest Leadership Academy: Cross-Cultural Teacher Training and Mentoring (California Science Center and Maloka)
To empower teachers with the resources, skills, knowledge, and the confidence to deliver inquiry-based science lessons to their classes, the California Science Center and Maloka will enlist mentor teachers from local public schools to collaboratively develop materials for teacher professional-development trainings and student activities. Teachers will be selected from urban-based school districts in both countries as well as from the Yurok Reservation in the temperate rainforests of Northern California and the Amazon in the tropical rainforest of Southern Colombia. As the mentor teachers train their colleagues to implement the lessons in the classroom, cross-cultural teams of students will communicate via email and Skype to share the information they are learning about the diversity of the rainforests and cultures in their regions.

Not Just Another Building on the Street (Sci-Port: Louisiana’s Science Center and, Pino Torinese, Italy)
In 2009, after struggling to attract a teen audience, planetariums in Shreveport, LA and Pino Torinese, Italy, decided to try a different approach. The planetariums empowered gifted high school students in each country to create their own planetarium dome show, and the planetariums benefited from increased audience engagement. As teens developed skills in technology use and project management, friendships were also forged between the two countries. Now, the institutions are reconnecting to engage new audiences of local astronomy teachers in developing a planetarium program that addresses educational needs in their high school classrooms and provides students with formal and informal learning opportunities related to science and culture. The students, who are from a variety of different schools, will once again work together to create a planetarium show that reflects their values, cultures, and priorities.

For more information about the MCCA program, visit or follow MCCA on Facebook. To be added to the emailing list for the next cycle, contact MCCA staff at

President Obama visits New York science fair

March 31st, 2011 - Posted in Featured, Member News by Christine Ruffo

During a day trip to New York City on March 29, U.S. President Barack Obama made an unscheduled stop at the American Museum of Natural History to tour the New York Science and Engineering Fair—his third science fair visit in recent weeks. As he examined projects including a bamboo bicycle and an exhibit on human-robot speech interaction, Obama told students, “There’s going to be a great demand for people with the skills you’re developing.”

In addition to his science fair drop-ins, the president has hosted several events, including a White House science fair, Astronomy on the South Lawn, and a meeting with Intel Science Talent student finalists, to encourage young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). ASTC, through its network of local science centers and museums and its Youth Inspired Challenge, is committed to doing its part to meet the president’s goal of strengthening STEM education. To learn more about the Youth Inspired Challenge, visit

About the image: President Obama greets students at the New York Science and Engineering Fair. Official White House photo by Lawrence Jackson

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