Noyce Leadership Institute’s third cohort begins

April 30th, 2010 - Posted in ASTC News, Partners by Christine Ruffo

This month marks a big transition for the Noyce Leadership Institute as the second cohort wraps up its final retreat and the third prepares for its first face-to-face meeting. The second cohort’s Capstone Retreat, held April 21–24 in the Washington, D.C. area, offered an opportunity for the participants to reflect on the future of their leadership and the role of their centers in the evolution of their communities and the science center field. The event featured group presentations by the 2009–2010 Fellows, which were attended by representatives from ASTC, the Noyce Foundation, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the American Association of Museums, the Association of Children’s Museums, and the National Science Foundation.

The start of the third cohort of NLI Fellows marks a distinct change in the program’s format. In contrast to prior cohorts that focused on CEOs, the 2010–2011 cohort includes senior managers inside and outside the field with the passion and potential to work as a CEO, COO, or another senior executive position within a science center or children’s museum. After a competitive application process, 18 participants were selected in February. The Fellows began meeting via audio conference in March, and will meet for their Opening Retreat in San Diego, California, May 15–23.

About the image: Ronen Mir, general director, MadaTech, Haifa, Israel, and Margie Marino, executive director, North Museum of Natural History, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, brainstorm ways to engage new audiences in their centers during Cohort 2’s Capstone Retreat. Photo by Jennifer Zoffel

Surrounded by Science

March 8th, 2010 - Posted in Featured, Partners by Christine Ruffo

On March 3–5, the Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE), with support from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), hosted the biennial Informal Science Education (ISE) Summit in Washington, D.C. The nearly 450 participants in the ISE Summit—which took the theme “Surrounded by Science”—included principal investigators of NSF grants and others engaged in strategic issues that cut across the informal science education field.

“Informal science education reaches millions of people every year in out-of-school settings with an extraordinary array of opportunities to explore, discover, and learn,” said Wendy Pollock, director of CAISE. “This is our opportunity to celebrate our work, explore emerging issues, and strengthen connections across the informal science education community.”

Summit plenary speakers included Tom Kalil, deputy director for policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, and host of NOVA scienceNOW; and Bruce Lewenstein, professor of science communication at Cornell University and co-chair of a U.S. National Research Council (NRC) Committee that produced a 2009 consensus report Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits.

Building on the momentum from the NRC report, CAISE initiated a nationwide effort to focus attention on critical issues impacting the informal science education community. They included the infrastructure that supports science learning outside of school, the policies that support and constrain opportunities in informal science education, and the nature of the learning that results across the lifespan. The results of these special Inquiry Groups were unveiled at the conference, and attendees were encouraged to participate in robust discussions and provide direction for the 21st century.

“We are just now developing a critical mass of evidence about how people learn through informal experience,” said Kevin Crowley, CAISE co–principal investigator and co-leader of the CAISE Learning Inquiry Group. “We are seeing exciting new theories about the ways that knowledge, skills, interest, and motivation can keep citizens engaged as science learners across the lifespan. There is great potential for strong research/practice collaborations across the spectrum of informal science education, and we hope the ISE Summit will catalyze continued innovation in the field.”

Other events included a luncheon on Friday, where several federal agencies highlighted collaborative efforts and underscored their ongoing support of informal science education, and the unveiling of Surrounded by Science: Learning Science in Informal Environments, a new book published by the NRC that builds on the findings of the 2009 report and supports the essential role of informal science education.

About the image: Tom Kalil, deputy director for policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, speaks at the CAISE Summit opening plenary. Photo by Christine Ruffo

Discovering Engineering

February 22nd, 2010 - Posted in Featured, Member News, Partners by Christine Ruffo

On February 20, over 5,000 visitors flocked to the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., for Discover Engineering Family Day. The celebration featured dozens of interactive activities, from building gumdrop geodomes to experimenting with natural and nano-manufactured materials that show properties like water resistance. The activities were provided by local engineering chapters, national organizations, and museums, including the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISENet) and the National Children’s Museum, Washington, D.C. The event also included a presentation by U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut Anna Lee Fisher.

Discover Engineering Family Day marked the end of this year’s Engineers Week, a global annual celebration presented by the National Engineers Week Foundation to raise public understanding and appreciation of engineers’ contributions to society. Other events included Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day and the finals for the Future City Competition.

About the image: The National Children’s Museum, Washington, D.C.,  presents Builder Bill and the Bewildering Bucket at Discover Engineering Family Day. Bill (also known as Matt Baldoni) shows kids how to construct a museum with pulleys, levers, and all sorts of machines. Photo by Christine Ruffo

Fun and games at COP15

November 25th, 2009 - Posted in Featured, Partners by Kate Crawford

How can we build greener cities? What impacts do our everyday actions have on the global climate? ASTC is inviting science centers around the world to  play Clim’City, an online game that allows players to measure how energy and development choices impact society over a 50-year period. The game encourages players to explore what works and what does not when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

A delegation from ASTC will travel to the upcoming 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP15) in Copenhagen to organize an international competition around Clim’City, an online climate change game developed by Cap-Sciences, Bordeaux, France. ASTC is committed to supporting its members as they address issues of science and society, and COP15 will provide the opportunity to highlight such work on both a local and a global level. The event will stream live from the Bella Center in Copenhagen on December 14 from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m.  Central European Time.

Clim’City will shine a spotlight on teens and educators from seven science centers around the world, giving them the opportunity to share what they’ve learned about climate change and to interact with a panel of climate policy and science experts, including the Deputy Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Communications Director of Climate Program office of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the science advisors for Clim’City.

Institutions wishing to join the competition can sign up on the Clim’City web site using the format “COP15InstitutionNameTeamName.” The game is appropriate for ages 15–18, and participants are welcome to play as teams or as individuals. Email kcrawford[at] by Friday, December 11, with your login information and high scores for each team. Winners will be announced during the December 14th event in Copenhagen. More information can be found on the IGLO web site.

All smiles

November 1st, 2009 - Posted in Annual Conference, Featured, Partners by Erin Van Rheenen

SMILEOn November 1, ASTC Annual Conference attendees had the opportunity take the new Science and Math Informal Learning Educators (SMILE) digital library for a spin. During an interactive workshop entitled “SMILE: Creating Community Around Digital Collections in Science Centers,” participants, each on his or her own laptop, learned how to create a SMILE account and how to search, collect, comment on, and share the math and science activities available in the library. Participants also learned more about seed grants (ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 each) that will be awarded to organizations that can contribute high-quality online resources to SMILE.

Even with the abundance of digital libraries now online, informal educators often have a hard time finding hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities created especially with them in mind. SMILE, part of the National Science Digital Library (NSDL), aims to fill that gap. SMILE is collecting the best educational materials on the Web and creating learning activities, tools, and services—all designed for those that teach schoolage kids in nonclassroom settings. The program’s creators say they want to meet out-of-school educators where they live, so to speak, whether their “classroom” is a museum, an active volcano, the shark tank at the local aquarium, or (in the case of homeschoolers) their own backyard.

Coordinating the hands-on workshop were Keith Braafladt and Asia Ward of the Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul. Session support was provided by Darrell Porcello and Joel Rosenberg of the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley; Erin Van Rheenen of the Exploratorium, San Francisco; and Tara Lang of the Children’s Museum of Houston, Texas.

Guest blogger Erin Van Rheenen is lead editor and metadata manager of SMILE and senior writer at the Exploratorium, San Francisco.

About the image: A workshop participant completes an activity listed in the SMILE digital library. Photo by Christine Ruffo

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