Lights Out

March 27th, 2009 - Posted in Featured, Member News, Partners by Kate Crawford

Star Watch program, Ontario Science CentreScience centers around the world will celebrate the third annual Earth Hour on March 28. Launched by the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) in 2007, Earth Hour is an hour-long lights-out event that raises awareness and encourages action on energy and climate issues. To help the WWF reach its goal of one billion participants, ASTC members on five continents (including 10 countries and 11 U.S. states) have announced plans to participate in this year’s Earth Hour.

Working with local schools and government, Teknikens Hus, Lulea, Sweden, has recruited students to be city hall “spies”. The students will “sneak” into government offices after business hours to check on energy use, making sure government employees are shutting down electrical appliances.

MadaTech, Haifa, Israel, is hosting a “Sun Party,” where students will work together to build a human sun tower, focusing mirrors on solar panels to power amplifiers during the party. After the party, they will march to city hall and present the mayor with a declaration on protecting the Earth.

In addition to organizing local events, science centers have created Earth Hour resources to share online with other centers across the globe. Sciencenter, Ithaca, New York, has put together a booklet to help Earth Hour participants measure the amount of energy and carbon dioxide saved by turning out the lights during Earth Hour. Ontario Science Centre, Toronto, Canada, is providing online access to its Star Watch program to help science centers take advantage of the lights-out event with telescope viewing parties.

About the image: Ontario Science Centre’s Star Watch program ecourages people to look to the skies during Earth Hour. Photo courtesy Ontario Science Centre


March 23rd, 2009 - Posted in Featured, Member News, Partners by Christine Ruffo

A Galileoscope being used to view Saturn in Washington, D.C.Science centers around the world are encouraging people to look to the skies as part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009). Through a partnership with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), ASTC is promoting two cornerstone IYA2009 projects: Dark Skies Awareness and night-sky observing with a newly released high-quality, low-cost telescope named the Galileoscope.

Designed by a team of astronomers, optical engineers, and educators, the Galileoscope, is powerful enough to allow users to examine lunar craters and mountains, Saturn’s rings, and countless stars invisible to the unaided eye. The project’s goal is to put telescopes into the hands of as many people around the world as possible, allowing them to view the skies as Galileo did 400 years ago.

Dark Skies Awareness aims to educate the public about adverse impacts of excess artificial lighting on local environments and the ongoing loss of a dark night sky for much of the world’s population. One initiative of the project is GLOBE at Night, which invites citizen scientists to observe the constellation Orion between March 16–28, take measurements of stars using GLOBE’s magnitude charts, and report observations on the GLOBE at Night web site.

With NOAO support, ASTC has paired 22 science centers with partner institutions in other countries, all committed to public programming using the Galileoscope and Dark Skies Awareness materials. Each U.S. institution is providing its partner with a set of materials to use throughout IYA2009.

About the image: A Galileoscope being used to view Saturn in Washington, D.C.

Photo by S. Pompea (NOAO)

Communicating Climate Change

December 29th, 2008 - Posted in ASTC News, Featured, Member News, Partners by Wendy Pollock

Exploring atmospheric models at Chabot Space & Science CenterPublic understanding of climate science got an infusion of energy with the December launch of a major national collaborative designed to engage citizens of all ages directly in investigations of local indicators of climate change.

Communicating Climate Change, a project of ASTC’s IGLO (International Action on Global Warming) Initiative, pairs 12 science centers with research institutions to observe and document indicators of climate change, from bark beetle infestations to changing patterns of bird migration. Also supporting the project are the American Geophysical Union, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies will study effects of participation in educational activities on public attitudes and behavior.

Yale’s Anthony Leiserowitz, a Co-Principal Investigator for the project, notes that his research suggests that most people believe that “climate change is something that takes place somewhere else far away, not in your own backyard.” Communicating Climate Change is designed to change that understanding. In addition to educational programs and research activities, the project will produce a series of videos for broadcast on American television’s ABC network and a web-based interactive map where science centers worldwide can contribute climate indicator data.

Science centers participating in the project are: Arizona Science Center, Phoenix; Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii; Chabot Space & Science Center, Oakland, California; EdVenture Children’s Museum, Columbia, South Carolina; the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Maryland Science Center, Baltimore; Museum of Discovery & Science, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Albuquerque; New York Hall of Science, Queens (where the launch event took place); Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego, California; Sciencenter, Ithaca, New York; and Saint Louis Science Center, Missouri.

Communicating Climate Change is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Informal Science Education program.

Photo: Chabot Space & Science Center teen volunteer Connie Phu and college environmental intern Marie VanZandt explore atmospheric models with science center public visitors. Photo courtesy of Chabot Space & Science Center

Communicating climate change

October 10th, 2008 - Posted in ASTC News, Featured, Partners by Wendy Pollock

Global warming demonstration at Museum of Discovery & Science, Fort Lauderdale, FloridaASTC has received a major grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a three-year collaborative project entitled Communicating Climate Change. The grant, awarded by NSF’s Informal Science Education Program, will enable ASTC to advance the informal learning sector’s contribution to public engagement with climate science and the implications of global warming. Partners include the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the American Geophysical Union, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), and the Yale School of Forestry and Environment, as well as 12 science centers throughout the United States, each paired with a research center.

Each partnership will investigate a local outcome of climate change—such as loss of butterfly habitats—and involve the surrounding community in exploring reasons for and consequences of that change. The project will result in numerous tools for the informal science community, including model citizen science projects, an online interactive map of climate change research, and educational videos. Also part of the project is a national survey of public perceptions of and attitudes toward climate change.

Communicating Climate Change is a project of ASTC’s International Action on Global Warming (IGLO) initiative.

Noyce Leadership Institute launched

July 8th, 2008 - Posted in ASTC News, Featured, Partners by Christine Ruffo

Noyce Leadership Institute FellowsThe Noyce Leadership Institute’s first cohort of Fellows—17 chief executives from science centers worldwide—recently gathered in Seattle for a week-long session beginning the nine-month program of face-to-face sessions, coaching, video conferencing, and peer learning. The Institute was founded in partnership with ASTC to immerse both existing and aspiring executives in cutting-edge knowledge and tools, promising practices, and professional networks, with an eye to increasing their capacity to lead effectively and have a greater impact in their communities. Over the long term, the Institute aims to strengthen the impact of science centers as innovative educational hubs.

Primary funding for the Institute comes from the Noyce Foundation, with additional support from the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Additional programs for chief executives and others who aspire to leadership roles in science centers are being planned. More information and an opportunity to meet with Noyce Leadership Institute representatives will be available at the ASTC Annual Conference in Philadelphia in October.

Photo by Chee-kuen Yip, Macao Science Centre

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