Association of Science - Technology Centers
 
About ASTC
About Science Centers
Annual Conference
Exhibition Services
Professional Development
Publications
Resource Center
  Accessible Practices
Education
Equity and Diversity
Exhibits
Making the Case
Older Adults in Science Centers
Science Center Planning
Visitor Studies
Youth Programs
Products and Services
 
ASTC Home


Resource Center

Science Center Planning
  Techniquest
Techniquest began as a storefront operation then became part of redevelopment of Cardiff Bay.
Photo courtesy Techniquest
If you're planning a science center, these resources and tips may be helpful to you.

Read about science center planning
Build a strong relationship with your community
Visit science centers
Learn about exhibits and how to plan them
Learn about learning in informal settings
Read about public understanding of science
Prepare a case statement
Plan a demonstration project
Plan your facility
Develop a business plan
Network
More resources





Read about science center planning


To get a broad overview of science center philosophy and practice, start with A Place for Learning Science: Starting a Science Center and Keeping It Running, by Sheila Grinell. This 2003 ASTC publication, written by a museum director with more than 30 years' experience with start-ups, covers the essentials of planning and management and includes a variety of viewpoints from both within and outside the field.


Order a copy of the ASTC Sourcebook of Statistics & Analysis. When you want to find out what typical operating costs are, how many people usually work in science centers, or what percentage of earned income you might expect to bring in, this report will help you.

Browse back issues of ASTC Dimensions—and, if you don't already get it, subscribe. You'll find articles on all aspects of science center mission and practice.

Look around this web site. You'll find a list of ASTC members, resources about major areas of science center work, information about networking opportunities, a job bank, and much more.

Association of Children's Museums
Association of Children's Museums publications—especially Collective Vision: Starting and Sustaining a Children's Museum—include articles relevant to science center planning .

return to top

 

Build a strong relationship with your community

Build support and form strategic alliances. Consult Seeking Synergy: Creating a Museum Collaborative That Works, by Victoria Crawford Coats (OMSI). This publication examines the benefits and pitfalls of museum collaboratives in this book that grew out of the Exhibit Research Collaborative. Also see Collaboration: Critical Criteria for Success, by the Pacific Science Center and SLi.

Get to know your audience. Check out our section on Visitor Studies for resources, including how to get in touch with AAM's Committee on Audience Research and Evaluation and the Visitor Studies Association. CARE maintains a list of consultants.

Check out these articles from ASTC Dimensions about science center audiences:

Coffee and Conversation: Building Relationships Through Adult Programming, by Joan L. Parrett, ASTC Dimensions, July/August 2003.


Confronting Demographic Denial: Retaining Relevance in the New Millennium, by Eric J. Jolly, ASTC Dimensions, January/February 2002.

Expert Advice: How People with Disabilities Are Making a Difference in Science Centers, ASTC Dimensions, July/August 2000.

After-School Hours: A Time for Children and Science Centers, by DeAnna Banks Beane, ASTC Dimensions, November/December 2000.

American Association of Museums Consult the American Association of Museums publication Visitor Surveys: A User's Manual, by Randi Korn and Laurie Sowd. Visit the AAM web site for more information

return to top

Visit science centers

Consult the ASTC Sourcebook of Statistics & Analysis to identify institutions to visit. Check Find a Science Center to explore members' web sites.

Pay admission and see the science center through a visitor's eyes. Take lots of pictures.

If you want a behind-the-scenes view and an opportunity to talk with staff members, call in advance and make an appointment. Recognize the value of the insights you get, and offer to pay for staff time and materials the science center provides that are not available to the general public.

Look for sessions at the ASTC Annual Conference that discuss new science centers opening around the world.

return to top


Learn about exhibits and how to plan them

For an overview, start with Kathleen McLean's Planning for People in Museum Exhibitions.


Visit science centers to develop your own sense of what makes for effective exhibits. An appendix in Kathy McLean's book offers guidelines for critiquing exhibitions.

Read about the process of exhibit evaluation—starting with Questioning Assumptions: An Introduction to Front-End Studies in Museums and Try It!: Improving Exhibits Through Formative Evaluation.

Read A Scientist for the Day: Exploration and Discovery in the Museum, by J. Shipley Newlin, ASTC Dimensions, September/October 2001.

Among the many sources of exhibit ideas and plans are the Exploratorium's series of Cookbooks; the Science Museum of Minnesota's Experiment Bench: A Workbook for Building Experimental Physics Exhibits; the popular three-volume Cheapbook: A Compendium of Inexpensive Exhibit Ideas, compiled by Paul Orselli; and the Cell Lab Cookbook, edited by Susan Fleming.

return to top

Learn about learning in informal settings

Resources are rich, and multiplying—check the Education section of the Resource Center, and browse ASTC publications.

Read Museum-School Bridges: A Legacy of Progressive Education, by George E. Hein, ASTC Dimensions, January/February 2004.

Become familiar with your area's science standards for schools and with any national standards. Because providing rich learning environments and experiences for both students and teachers is one of a science center's major areas of community service, be sure to give high priority to developing partnerships and working with the schools.

National Science Education StandardsIn the United States, the National Academy of Sciences publishes the National Science Education Standards.

Benchmarks for Science LiteracyBenchmarks for Science Literacy were published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science as part of Project 2061.

return to top


Read about public understanding of science

Association of Children's MuseumsScience and Engineering Indicators, a study published every two years by the National Science Foundation, includes data on public understanding of science in the United States.

Association of Children's MuseumsCheck the Science and Policy area of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) web site.

return to top


Prepare a case statement

See the Making the Case section of the Resource Center for references and links to articles that support the science center case.

Making the Case for Science Centers was the theme of the January/February 2001 issue of ASTC Dimensions.

Arts and Cultural ProsperityArts and Cultural Prosperity, a resource maintained by Americans for the Arts, provides background on economic impact of cultural institutions.

return to top


Plan a demonstration project

While planning is under way, you can begin to establish a community presence and build public support by participating in or staging programs and events. For ideas, see the Pacific Science Center's Science Center Know How, and the Science Museum of Minnesota's Let's Try It...and See What Happens!.

Rent a traveling exhibition. Check what's available from ASTC's Exhibition Services; feel free to call 202/783-7200 x117 for help.

return to top


Plan your facility

Make accessibility for all visitors a priority as you plan or expand your facility. View the Accessible Practices area of the Resource Center.


Architecture and Exhibition Design: A Survey of Infrastructure, by Charles H. Howarth Jr. and Maeryta A. Medrano, is a shorter bulletin based on surveys of 10 institutions.

Vision to Reality: Critical Dimensions in Science Center Development is a four-part report that identifies the critical dimensions in starting a science center, based on research carried out in 1992.

return to top


Develop a business plan

Order the ASTC Bulletin Business Planning for New Facilities, by Charles Trautmann.

Read Earned Income: Where's the Potential?, by Sheila Grinell, ASTC Dimensions, May/June 2000.

Building a Base of Support is the theme of the May/June 2001 issue of ASTC Dimensions.

Science Center Workforce 2001: An ASTC Report provides background on benefits, turnover rates, diversity, and other workforce issues, including salaries in key positions, in U.S. science centers, at the time of the report.

Building and Maintaining a Diverse, High-Quality WorkforceBuilding and Maintaining a Diverse, High-Quality Workforce, a publication of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, provides useful guidance for other employers.


Employment Checklist for Hiring Persons with DisablititiesThe U.S. Department of Labor's Employment Checklist for Hiring Persons with Disablitities is also a useful guide.

return to top


Network

Go to the ASTC Annual Conference.

Check out ASTC RAPs (Roundtables for Advancing the Professions) in your area.

Subscribe to ISEN-ASTC-L, an e-mail list that links informal science educators from around the world, many of whom work in ASTC-member institutions as educators, exhibit developers, evaluators, and visitor services staff.

Join ASTC.

Subscribe to ASTC Dimensions, the bimonthly news journal of the science center field.

return to top


Resources

Check the Professional Development section to find resources and opportunities offered by other Science Center Networks and Related Organizations.

To order a publication from ASTC, or to subscribe to the bimonthly journal ASTC Dimensions, contact ASTC Publications at 202/783-7200 x 140; fax 202/783-7207; or e-mail pubs@astc.org.

 
return to top


About ASTC | About Science Centers | Annual Conference | Exhibition Services
  Professional Development | Publications | Resource Center | ASTC Home