Twist and Shout: Using physical movement in STEM education

October 18th, 2014 - Posted in Annual Conference by Mary Mathias

If a session begins with a paper airplane-making activity, you know it’s going to be good. That is how presenters Jen Lokey from the Powerhouse Science Center (formerly the Durango Discovery Museum), Isabel Leeder from the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, and Woody Sobey from the Science Center of Idaho kicked off their session, “Twist and Shout: Using physical movement in STEM education.” The energetic session also included a 110-foot “crab walk” and dance interpretations of scientific concepts. All of these activities were used to demonstrate ways to include movement in educational programs.

As Lokey and Leeder discussed during the session, numerous studies have shown the positive correlation between physical activity and content retention. Movement stimulates brain activity and brain plasticity, and increases “feel good” neurotransmitters such as dopamine while decreasing stress hormones like cortisol. And, while many studies focus on elementary school-age children, this positive correlation has been demonstrated in learners of all ages. Studies have also shown that decreased movement, and the decrease in parks and active play, have contributed to the increase in attention disorders.

Sobey discussed how strategies like making paper airplanes in one location and testing them in another, and moving chairs to make room are simple ways to incorporate movement into an activity. As Lokey described, strategies for integrating movement can be explicit or implicit. Explicit methods are helpful for young learners and include an explanation of why movement is being incorporated into an activity, e.g. “let’s do some jumping jacks to wake everyone up and get the blood flowing!” Implicit methods of incorporating movement are good for older children who know that movement and exercise are important and will then connect it to positive activities. Leeder also discussed the Frost Museum of Science’s GROOVE program, a randomized controlled trial that explores the potential for virtual reality technologies as a medium to promote healthy lifestyles.

A Time to Heal

October 18th, 2014 - Posted in Annual Conference by Emily Schuster

When museums and hospitals work together, the resulting partnerships can “bring joy to families going through hard times,” according to Ann Hernandez of Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, Michigan. In addition to helping patients and their families, these partnerships can be mutually beneficial to both the museums and hospitals themselves, as panelists explained in the ASTC 2014 session “Building Community Partnerships: Hospitals and Museums Realize Shared Healing Connections.”

The session was moderated by Hernandez and led by Andrea Reynolds, also of Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. Presenters included both hospital and museum professionals: Julie Piazza of CS Mott Children’s and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, Ann Arbor, Michigan; Kurt Huffman of COSI, Columbus, Ohio; and Kristofer Kelly-Frère of TELUS Spark, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Staff from both Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and Mott Hospital have visited each other’s institutions to present programs—including a Teddy Bear Clinic held at the museum, where visitors learned about the hospital environment and staff roles. The partnership has also involved training volunteers willing to work at both the museum and the hospital. In addition, Mott Hospital has held a focus group at the museum where patients, families, and hospital and museum staff brainstormed ideas for exhibits that would bring an element of the museum into the hospital.

Before opening its facility in 2011, TELUS Spark prototyped exhibits at Alberta Children’s Hospital. Kelly-Frère pointed out, “If you only prototype in your institution, you’re only reaching the audience you already have. If you want to reach new audiences, you have to go out and find them.” Prototyping in the hospital allowed TELUS Spark to design exhibits that accounted for different abilities and family dynamics.

COSI uses videoconferencing to allow students to watch live knee surgeries at Mount Carmel Hospital and ask the surgeons questions, view a videotape of an autopsy accompanied by live narration by a pathologist resident from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, or talk to pharmacists housed at Labs in Life within COSI itself. Huffman explained that these programs help hospital staff increase their communication skills and learn about hands-on inquiry and 21st-century skills.

The presenters discussed many of the special issues involved with museum/hospital partnerships—including designing activities and materials with infection prevention and control in mind; training hospital staff in how to deliver messages in ways children can understand; and training museum staff in how to talk to patients and to respect patient confidentiality.

Piazza said that museums that partner with hospitals are “bringing distraction, discovery, and excitement. [Patients are] kids first, in the hospital second. They’re not their diagnosis—they are people.” She also pointed out that museums can support the children of adult hospital patients, as well as the adult patients themselves. “Play is universal,” she said.

Announcing the World Biotech Tour

October 18th, 2014 - Posted in ASTC News, Partners by Mary Mathias

ASTC and the Biogen Idec Foundation are proud to announce the launch of the World Biotech Tour (WBT), a multi-year project designed to increase the impact and visibility of biotechnology to youth, the general public, and underserved communities in an effort to promote science literacy worldwide. The WBT will improve the professional capacity of science center personnel and create a cohort of young people acting as ambassadors for the Tour in their communities and beyond. The WBT is made possible through a grant from the Biogen Idec Foundation.

The World Biotech Tour will include several biotech-themed events hosted at international sites that will engage different generations of life-long learners, both at the science centers themselves and in the community, making biotechnology accessible to all. A key component will be the “Lab in a Box” product, which contains experiments designed to showcase the relevance of biotechnology in everyday life.

The first three stops of the WBT in 2015 will be at Technopolis, the Flemish Science Centre in Mechelen, Belgium; Pavilion of Knowledge – Ciência Viva in Lisbon, Portugal; and Miraikan, National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo, Japan. In addition to the 12 scheduled stops on the tour over the three years of the program, any and all museums will have access to resources necessary to host their own event, free of charge, on the WBT website at

The WBT will also feature an international Ambassadors Program that will enlist a select group of middle and high school students from around the world to support and inspire others to participate in WBT activities in their communities and schools. Throughout the WBT, ASTC and the Biogen Idec Foundation will conduct research on how biotechnology is being taught to the public, both in schools and outside the classroom. The findings from this research will be shared at the conclusion of the World Biotech Tour at the 2017 Science Centre World Summit in Tokyo, Japan.

For more information, visit and follow the tour on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Citizen Science Boot Camp

October 17th, 2014 - Posted in Annual Conference by Christine Ruffo

Even before the official start of ASTC 2014, attendees were outside having fun and doing science in Citizen Science Boot Camp. The Friday morning workshop was designed to give participants tools they can use to build their own visitor-centered citizen science programs.

Participants split into groups to “bioblitz” two downtown Raleigh parks, collecting data using iNaturalist, a free mobile app that helps users record and track observations. The groups then analyzed their data, creating graphs of the major taxa for each park—birds, mammals, insects, herbaceous plants/wildflowers, trees, fungi, and “other.” They also discussed how historic differences in the once racially segregated parks might have influenced biodiversity. The workshop ended with an overview and discussion of program evaluation tools.

About the image: In Citizen Science Boot Camp, participants “bioblitzed” local parks and logged their findings using a mobile app.

Welcome to Raleigh!

October 16th, 2014 - Posted in Annual Conference by Mary Mathias

More than 1,500 attendees (with more to come) from around the world have gathered in Raleigh, North Carolina for the start of the 2014 ASTC Annual Conference, hosted by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

With over 110 sessions and workshops; and keynote presentations featuring Dr. Hayat Sindi, UN Science Ambassador and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and Angelo Vermeulen, visual artist, scientist, and community organizer; as well as numerous networking opportunities, ASTC 2014 promises to be an exceptional professional development opportunity for the global science center community.

Whether on-site or from afar, ASTC invites you to follow the 2014 Annual Conference online. Follow us on Twitter (@sciencecenters), and join in the conversation using hashtag #astc2014. Photos and videos will also be posted on Instagram (follow @sciencecenters and post your own using #astc2014), and on our ASTCvideos YouTube channel. The ASTC Conference Blog will also be updated Saturday through Tuesday.

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