Bridging the Gaps: Integrating Citizen Science Throughout an Institution

May 30th, 2014 - Posted in 2014, Dimensions by Alejandro Asin

By Christine L. Goforth, Julie M. Urban, and Julie E. Horvath

From Dimensions
May/June 2014

At the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (NCMNS), Raleigh, we’ve made citizen science a priority, because we recognize its power to teach people about the natural world and the role of science in their daily lives. The value of the citizen scientist is apparent throughout our museum, including in our research and collections, educational programs, exhibits, and outdoor facility, Prairie Ridge Ecostation. We constantly improve our public science offerings to reach out to our visitors and engage them in scientific experiences.
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Youth Representatives Visit Capitol Hill to Advocate for Afterschool Programs

May 28th, 2014 - Posted in Events, Partners by Mary Mathias

On Thursday, May 22, 2014, youth representatives from museum programs met with Members of Congress to advocate for afterschool programs as part of the Afterschool Alliance’s Afterschool for All Challenge. Held as part of the Afterschool Alliance’s National Network Meeting, the Afterschool for All Challenge “[provided] unique networking and professional development opportunities that empower participants to become informed, capable afterschool advocates of all ages.” Participants were sent to Capitol Hill to advocate for the Afterschool for America’s Children Act as part of the 21st Century Learning Centers initiative (S. 326 in the Senate and HR 4086 in the House of Representatives).

The teenage representatives traveled to Washington, DC from the New Jersey Academy of Aquatic Sciences in Camden, the Newark Museum in Newark, New Jersey, The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland, and the Natural History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City.

The whole gang!

The teens started with a day of advocacy training on May 21 as part of the conference. They ended the day with additional preparation over pizza at the ASTC office, which gave them an opportunity to meet the rest of the youth participants and learn about the programs at other institutions.

Pizza Party

The groups were up early the next morning for the Breakfast of Champions, which honored leading advocates and practitioners in afterschool programs. Then it was off to Capitol Hill for meetings in the offices of Members of Congress from each group’s home state. Overall, the reaction from both the teens and the staffers with whom they met was enthusiastic, and all parted in high spirits, satisfied that they had made an excellent case for afterschool programs.

Over the next few weeks, the participating ASTC programs will be posting guest entries about their experiences here on the ASTC blog, so stay tuned!

Photos by Mary Mathias 

Science Centers: Powering STEM Learning

May 15th, 2014 - Posted in Events, Partners by Mary Mathias

Exhibits, student support programs, teacher professional development, community outreach, community anchoring, public awareness, driving creativity and innovation, strong STEM learning platforms, afterschool activities — these are some of the many ways that science centers and museums are impacting their communities in today’s world.

STEMconnector and ASTC hosted the virtual town hall “Science Centers: Powering STEM Learning” on May 14. This informative online panel featured leaders of some of the most innovative science centers and museums in the United States who addressed the role of science centers in our world today. Speakers included:

» Anthony “Bud” Rock, President and CEO, ASTC
» Ron Baillie, Co-Director, Carnegie Science Center
» Matt Fleury, President and CEO, Connecticut Science Center
» David E. Chesebrough, President & CEO, COSI
» Joanna Haas, Executive Director, Kentucky Science Center
» Paul Fontaine, VP of Education, Museum of Science, Boston
» Emlyn Koster, Director, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
» Bryce Seidl, President and CEO, Pacific Science Center

Watch the town hall below to hear about the work the panelists are doing in their own museums and their thoughts on the future of the field. Download the slides from the presentation here.

Powered by the People: A Citizen Science Sampler

April 28th, 2014 - Posted in 2014, Dimensions by Emily Schuster

This is an extended version of an article that appeared in the May/June 2014 issue of Dimensions magazine.

Many people think that cities, especially ones as large and stereotyped as Los Angeles, are devoid of nature, and certainly devoid of any nature worth studying. Scientists at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM) think otherwise. “We are just as likely to find a new species of insect in Los Angeles as in the forests of Costa Rica and Brazil—that is, 100%,” said Brian Brown, NHM entomology curator. In fact, Los Angeles is located in a biodiversity hotspot, one of 34 scientifically recognized places on Earth that are home to an incredibly high level of biodiversity and that suffer high threat from human actions.

But how do you study biodiversity in a vast metropolis where much of the land is private and thousands of observations and specimens are needed? “Citizen science is the only feasible answer,” said Greg Pauly, NHM herpetology curator and project leader for Reptiles and Amphibians of Southern California (RASCals). The public has the time, capacity, and access to private lands (such as backyards and schoolyards) that scientists do not. The fact that scientists have a real need for help is not lost on participants. As it turns out, it is a key motivator. One participant in RASCals noted, “If I didn’t contribute, then your map of distribution would have had less data. I had to make sure that Woodland Hills [a neighborhood in Los Angeles] was represented!”
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The “Team Sport” of Science Center Learning

April 25th, 2014 - Posted in 2014, Dimensions, From the CEO by Anthony (Bud) Rock

Watching young visitors move among the exhibits in science centers and museums, I am often reminded of how my children first learned to play soccer (or football in most of the world). We called it “pack ball” because of the way the entire team tended to follow the ball in unison. Groups of young people often navigate through our science centers in much the same collective fashion. This is not surprising, but it creates a challenging knowledge acquisition environment that must accommodate both individualized experiences and the dynamics of small group learning.
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