Flickering lights

July 17th, 2009 - Posted in Featured, Member News, Partners by Christine Ruffo

Are firefly populations declining? Last year, the Museum of Science, Boston, in partnership with Tufts University and Fitchburg State College, developed Firefly Watch, a citizen science project, to help find out. The museum is asking volunteers to check their backyards for fireflies, one evening a week for 10 minutes throughout the summer, and to report their observations on the Firefly Watch web site. On the site, visitors can also learn about different types of fireflies, read featured research papers about them, and explore data that has been collected by the project so far. The National Children’s Museum, Washington, D.C., also has created a web site, Ready, Set, Glow!, to encourage children to participate.

Citizen science projects like Firefly Watch are engaging a growing number of people in working with scientists to investigate everything from light pollution to backyard birds. A report on Public Participation in Scientific Research describes more of these programs; it’s available in PDF format (3 MB) from the Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education.

About the image: Firefly Watch encourages the public to participate in research by oberserving fireflies in their own backyards. Photo by Don Salvatore, Firefly Watch, Museum of Science

Small world

March 31st, 2009 - Posted in Featured, Partners by Christine Ruffo

NanoDays 2009, the second annual nationwide festival of educational programs about nanoscale science and engineering, kicked off on March 28. Organized by the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISE Net), the festival will continue through April 5 with over 200 science museums, research centers, and universities across the United States taking part.

NanoDays activities are designed to bring university researchers together with science museum educators to create learning experiences for both children and adults to explore the miniscule world of atoms, molecules, and nanoscale forces. Most participating science centers are combining simple hands-on activities for young people with presentations on current research for adults. Several also are hosting forum programs engaging the public in discussions about the benefits and risks of particular applications of nanotechnology.

About the image: Brindha Muniappan, education associate at the Museum of Science, Boston, helps a visitor add to a collaborative stained glass window using pre-made nanoparticle solutions containing silver and gold. Photo courtesy Museum of Science

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

Stargazing

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

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