2009 Leading Edge Award Recipients

Four ASTC member organizations and two science center professionals received Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Awards on October 31 at the 2009 ASTC Annual Conference Banquet in Fort Worth, Texas.

Leading Edge Award for Business Practice

Awarded to the Sciencenter, Ithaca, New York, for its Sustainability Initiative, which made several positive impacts on the center’s operations. In addition to converting to 100% sustainable wind power, composting food waste, and installing environmentally-friendly restroom hand driers, Sciencenter also contributed to a wide range of community-building efforts, including increasing the accessibility of the center’s exhibits and programs to all socioeconomic groups and creating a new salary-health-retirement package for sustaining science center staff.

Leading Edge Award for Visitor Experience (small institution)

The Bakken Museum, Minneapolis, Minnesota, won an “Edgie” for its Science Assets-Based School Partnership Program. The program supports elementary students and their teachers by bolstering science assets—defined by the museum as the attitudes, skills, and knowledge that form the foundation for continued achievement in science. The Bakken staff use an inquiry-based approach to expand students’ scientific reasoning skills; at the same time, the museum provides professional development to teachers, building their confidence to answer questions about science. A partnership between the museum and the Minneapolis Public Schools, the program is expanding to serve 2,700 fourth graders and their teachers.

Leading Edge Award for Visitor Experience (large institution)

Awarded to Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the Norsk Teknisk Museum, in Oslo, Norway.

Carnegie Science Center, accepted its award for BrainCake.org where 11- to 17-year-olds can access scholarship and science information, receive homework help, ask mentors for advice, and blog about science, all in a safe place. With a growing global database of over 9,000 members, the web site also counts more than one million hits a month and nearly 30,000 individual visitors monthly. BrainCake.org is one of the four core programs of the center’s Girls, Math & Science Partnership, dedicated to engaging, educating, and embracing girls as architects of change.

The Norsk Teknisk Museum won its “Edgie” for Klima X, a global climate change exhibition that breaks new ground for immersive environments. Visitors are required to put on rubber boots before entering the exhibition, where the entire floor is covered by four inches of water. The flooded floor, huge blocks of melting ice, sheets of rain, and smoking chimneys create an unforgettable visitor experience and reinforce the educational framework and associated programming for the exhibition.

Leading Edge Award for Experienced Leadership in the Field

Awarded to Christopher Andrews, director of the Steinhart Aquarium and chief of public programs, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco and Rachel Meyer, executive director of the Coyote Point Museum for Environmental Education, San Mateo, California.

Andrews was the guiding force in developing the visitor experience—including the aquarium, natural history museum, planetarium, and all educational and public programming—for the new California Academy of Sciences, which reopened in September 2008 and hosted more than two million visitors since opening day. The jury noted his ability to inspire and nurture creative thinking across academy departments.

Meyer led a top-to-bottom revitalization of a museum on the brink of extinction. Not only did she revamp the museum’s educational philosophy and transform the visitor experience, Meyer also set the museum on stronger financial footing. Due to her leadership, attendance is up 15% in the last year, membership has increased by 10%, and the museum has had balanced operating budgets for the last two fiscal years, after seven years of significant deficits.