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Professional Development

Current Communities of Practice

Below is a list of those Communities of Practice that are currently operational or are in the process of organizing, with information on how you can get involved in any or all of them.

Have an idea for a new Community of Practice? Email ASTC's Professional Development team for more information, or to share your ideas.

ASTC Communities of Practice are located on our Community site, This platform allows CoPs to host discussions, share resources, and connect with other members of the field. Instructions for joining the ASTC Community are below.

How to Join the Online ASTC Community (1 MB)| Need help?

Advocates for Diversity: The Advocates for Diversity CoP is for any museum or like organization staff either already in the process of implementing or exploring the formation of an internal workgroup to drive an organizational diversity/inclusion initiative. The CoP provides a support network for finding ways to gain support and guidance for creating and sustaining an inclusive science center/museum workplace.

Citizen Science: This group is designed for professionals who use citizen science at their institutions in any way, from research and collections to exhibits to education. Citizen science is becoming increasingly popular in the science and technology center field as a way to educate the public about science, gather data necessary to support research efforts, and make science accessible to all. Communication between citizen science practitioners within ASTC will help us address some of the special problems and benefits we face as science and technology center professionals that incorporate citizen science and help the entire community improve the level of service we can provide to our visitors.

ASTC Development Professionals: The ASTC Development Professionals Group is an information and idea-sharing network for fundraising staff of ASTC-member organizations. The group welcomes all levels of development executives and staff, who raise private contributions from individuals and companies, foundation grants, and government support at the local, state, and federal level globally.

Early Childhood: Do your education programs involve sitting on the floor with kids and parents and playing with science? Then this CoP is for you, whether you are already working with 2-5 year olds, or if you would like to and don't know where to start. The Early Childhood CoP provides resources and guidelines for creating developmentally-appropriate science programs for young children and their families. This includes everything from hands-on activities, to read-aloud storybooks, to children's songs, along with current articles regarding how preschoolers learn. All program ideas are designed to fit within a small museum's budget.

ASTC Information Technology: This forum includes discussion of information technology issues and opportunities as they relate to supporting the needs of science and technology centers or museums. The forum may discuss IT- or ICT-related projects: software, ticketing, internet aware exhibits, collaboration solutions, etc.

Making & Tinkering Spaces in Museums Community of Practice: This CoP seeks to develop a wider community of people interested in all aspects of creating and running Making and Tinkering spaces within a museum. We're offering a chance to connect with others experienced in this area, as well as those just beginning, in order to learn from each other and broaden the conversation. Conversations will range from the philosophical ideals to the practical realities, and be geared towards supporting each member and the work they do at their individual institution.

ASTC Membership Managers: Membership managers working at ASTC-member science centers and museums are invited to join this group. Topics of conversation include: Passport Program best practices, member retention strategies, membership card management, etc.

Museum Screens: This CoP will seek to address the unanswered questions related to questions such as learning, affect and impact of immersive screen technologies (e.g., giant screen, domes, planetariums etc.) and their ancillary materials (e.g., social media, teacher's guides etc.) Linking to affiliated associations (GSCA, IMERSA etc.) this ASTC CoP will promote research through its community of researchers, educators, exhibitors etc.

Network for Leaders of Interpreters, Facilitators and Explainers (NetLIFE): NetLIFE is a community for leaders of interpretive floor staff. Topics of discussion include issues of recruitment, training, retention, and advocating for floor staff's role in visitor experiences.

Public Engagement with Science: The goal of the Public Engagement with Science (PES) CoP is to help informal science education institutions become more valuable to their communities by helping publics and scientists engage in issues and content where science, policy, and public aspirations about their local, national, and global communities intersect.

Research & Evaluation: The purpose of this CoP is to build the evaluation capacity of small and medium-sized ASTC institutions by establishing a forum through which ASTC institutions with limited evaluation capacity can discuss questions and challenges about evaluation, and receive support and resources from peer institutions and from experienced professional evaluators. Members have opportunities to connect, converse, and share resources via the ASTC Community.

Science Centers and NGSS: This community of practice will connect educators working in informal settings like science centers, museums, zoos, and botanical gardens who create professional development and training experiences to address STEM learning. We are especially interested in building capacity around the Next Generation Science Standards, helping community members to revision their education services and programs using language and concepts that clearly articulate the practices of science, core ideas important across disciplines, and concepts that crosscut scientific domains. Members of this CoP are actively engaged in the educational mission of their institution, and work with teachers and administrators to improve STEM learning experiences both inside and outside the classroom.

Small Museums: Do you have "and" in your job title? Chances are you work at a small or a "micro" museum. Small museums are the majority of ASTC institutions. We are scrappy and creative, but we face unique challenges. This group will explore how we can help ourselves, peer-to-peer, and how together we can attract the type of support we need from ASTC and from funders. Occupy ASTC!

STEM Afterschool: The STEM Afterschool Community of Practice connects science centers, museums and other informal learning organizations with afterschool professionals engaged in offering STEM programming. This group seeks to understand the challenges and opportunities related to the afterschool landscape in different regions, and to build systemic relationships among informal science educators, afterschool providers, and related entities like Statewide Afterschool Networks. Areas of community interest include program design and delivery, professional development, and joint communications and advocacy.

Taking STEAM to TASC: The "Taking STEAM to TASC" CoP goes beyond including art in STEM education to explore the wide variety of opportunities that abound at the intersections of technology, the fine arts, science, and culture (TASC).

Visitor Services: This CoP serves as a resource for museum professional involved in all aspects of customer service related to the visitor experience. Community members share resources and strategies, ask questions, provide feedback and collaborate to develop new resources for the field.

Volunteer Managers: The ASTC Volunteer Managers CoP is an open forum for sharing ideas, effective strategies, challenges, and concerns with our peers in the field, in order to learn from and strengthen our impact with local volunteers.

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