Three ASTC members receive IMLS/MacArthur Learning Labs grants, four more to partner with awarded libraries

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced yesterday that three ASTC-member institutions—the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), Portland; New York Hall of Science, Queens; and the Da Vinci Discovery Center of Science and Technology, Allentown, Pennsylvania—were among the first 12 winners of a national competition to build 21st Century learning labs in museums and libraries around the country.

The winners—four museums and eight libraries—will receive a total of $1.2 million in grants to plan and design the labs. Inspired by YOUMedia, a new teen space at the Chicago Public Library, and innovations in science and technology centers, these labs will help young people move beyond consuming content to making and creating it.

In addition to the three ASTC members that received Learning Labs grants, four additional ASTC members—California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco; COSI, Columbus, Ohio; Institute for Learning Innovation, Edgewater, Maryland; and Science City at Union Station, Kansas City, Missouri—will partner with awarded libraries in their communities.

The learning labs will be based on new research about how young people learn today. Teens will use both digital and traditional media that promote creativity, critical thinking, and hands-on learning. The labs will connect teens to mentors and peers, as well as anytime, anywhere access to information through online social networks so that they can pursue their interests more deeply. The winning institutions will match the funds from the competition and partner with local educational, cultural, and civic organizations to build a network of learning opportunities for young people.

ASTC CEO Anthony (Bud) Rock remarked, “Science centers and museums nurture the innovative spirit so crucially needed for success in today’s world, and using digital media to further ignite the excitement of our nation’s youth about lifelong STEM learning will ensure that future generations cultivate the skills they need, such as problem solving, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. The fact that three of the four museums named as grant recipients are science centers is an exciting testament to the strength of our field as incubators of innovation in our communities.”

The 12 recipients of this round of grants were selected out of a pool of 98 applicants from 32 states. Applications were evaluated by professionals with relevant expertise in digital media and learning and museum and library management. Winners will participate—in-person and online—in a community of practice that will provide technical assistance, networking, and cross-project learning. In addition to the Da Vinci Center, New York Hall of Science, and OMSI, those institutions selected as grant recipients include: San Francisco Public Library, California; Rangeview Library District and Anythink Libraries, Thornton, Colorado; Howard County Public Library, Columbia, Maryland; St. Paul Public Library, Minnesota; Kansas City Public Library, Missouri; Columbus Metropolitan Library, Ohio; Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation, Pennsylvania; Nashville Public Library Foundation, Tennessee; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas.

For information on those museums and libraries chosen as Learning Labs grant recipients, visit Application materials for a second round of grants will be available in spring 2012. More information is available at