Congratulations to the ASTC-member institutions who received funding in American Rescue Plan Act grants from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
In a news release announcing the awards, IMLS Director Crosby Kemper said “IMLS is proud to announce our awards for the American Rescue Plan, which provide relief and succor in so many different ways through a vast number of institutions, patrons, and their communities. Keeping the connection of our cultural institutions to their communities digitally and through staff outreach, the preservation and presentation of collections, exhibits and direct social services, including health information and direct care, workforce preservation and development, and many, many educational activities related to the pandemic and frequently directly related to school district curriculum, makes this a unique and proud moment for IMLS in the history of service to our nation.”
The release highlighted the award to Exploration Place in Wichita, Kansas, which will enable the museum to “create and implement an online and in-person educational program that will promote recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic by raising awareness of key mental health issues and teaching strategies that program participants can use to improve their own mental health. The project also will support national efforts to address the unequal socioeconomic impact of mental illness and reduce the stigma that prevents many people from seeking treatment.”
With supplemental funds appropriated by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, this funding opportunity offered grants from $10,000 to $50,000 and was intended to support museum and library services in addressing community needs created or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and in assisting with recovery. Applicants could seek support for one of two goals:
- Goal 1: Strengthen the institutional capacity of museums, libraries, and related organizations to respond to community needs quickly, effectively, efficiently, and responsibly.
- Goal 2: Increase the ability of museums, libraries, and related organizations to deliver programs and services that contribute to the well-being of families, groups, and individuals of all cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.
More than 60 ASTC members will share over $2.6 million, out of the total $15.3 million awarded to 390 projects:
Amazement Square, a children’s museum in Lynchburg, Virginia, will partner with local school divisions and hospital Centra Health’s autism and developmental services to facilitate a comprehensive program addressing social-emotional and academic learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic for children with autism and other autism spectrum disorders and their families. The program will include a community advisory committee, in-class curriculum, exclusive quarterly museum experiences, professional development for museum staff, and publicly accessible digital resources. The program will increase the understanding of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) concepts among participating children, facilitate conversations and program development among the advisory committee, expand museum staff knowledge of inclusivity and autism spectrum disorder programming, and heighten awareness of the museum’s accessibility resources.
The Anchorage Museum in Alaska will hire new museum staff and train existing staff to develop community relationships, partnerships, networks, and alliances. The museum will hire a programmatic staff member to collaborate with and support communities of color and LGBTQ communities, as well as a curator to work with communities on climate change and climate justice. To best serve communities and provide long-term value, the Anchorage Museum will prioritize ongoing relationships with diverse communities, rather than relying on a program-by-program or transactional mindset. Through this new initiative, museum staff will work with a collaborative spirit, learning from the insights and leadership of others to create transformative experiences as the community recovers from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum
Ann Arbor, Michigan
The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum will use its team of highly trained educators and its background as a leader in digital and hands-on learning to bring programming and targeted scholarship opportunities to K–8 students in and around St. Clair County, Michigan. Through this program, the museum aims to mitigate learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic by hiring additional part-time education team members, who will create a new series of programs designed to foster an interest in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, the environment, aviation, and aerospace. The museum also will provide support for students to attend the NASA Challenger Center, opening in January 2022 at St. Clair County Community College, where museum staff will lead students through an intensive and hands-on learning experience focused on space exploration.
Anniston Museums and Gardens
The Anniston Museums and Gardens will develop seven outdoor learning hotspots on strategic sites throughout its grounds, each highlighting a unique environmental subject, including native and rare plants, microclimates, bamboo as a renewable resource, water conservation, the butterfly life cycle, bog gardens, and forest ecology. The learning hotspots will be available free of charge to any onsite visitor and will include interactive activities and links to learn more through a Quick Reference (QR) code. The museum will ensure each learning hotspot includes plantings, interactives, and graphic signage to support the visitor experience. By providing a safe, outdoor experience, the museum is responding to the public’s hesitation to visit indoor museums during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Arizona Science Center
Arizona Science Center in Phoenix will work with K–8 schools, including Title I schools, to schedule, plan, and provide 63,000 students with its Virtual Science on Wheels program (which may also be held in person, if possible) and Universe on Wheels program during the 2021–2022 academic year. By participating in these programs, students will strengthen their understanding of STEM concepts and how they are applied to everyday life and will learn about the wide range of potential STEM careers, helping with recovery from learning loss during the COVID-19 pandemic. The science center will measure these outcomes, along with the overall effectiveness of the programs, via teacher surveys after each program is completed.
Bay Area Discovery Museum
The Bay Area Discovery Museum will continue its mobile engineering lab program, which serves schools and libraries throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. The mobile engineering lab program delivers research-backed, hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning experiences for pre-K through 5th-grade students that align with the Next Generation Science Standards. This work will directly respond to critical community needs created or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including mobile and socially distanced classrooms and access to STEM enrichment programs. During the 2021/2022 school year and summer, the museum will deliver 74 school programs of approximately three to four sessions each for 5,300 pre-K through 5th-grade students, along with 12 library and community programs for 1,200 children. The program will prioritize serving Title I schools and schools with the widest identified achievement gaps.
Boston Children’s Museum
Boston Children’s Museum, in partnership with a coalition of Boston community stakeholders, will develop a framework across exhibits, digital applications, and community-based programs to make going to the museum a more accessible experience. The project will prioritize equity, diversity, and inclusion, as research shows that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing inequities within the U.S. educational system. The museum and its partners will use an upcoming STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) project as a test case for the new framework and accessibility initiative. Through this work, the museum will better support underserved children and families in the greater Boston area.
Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention
The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention, in Gainesville, Florida, will hire an additional outreach educator and a partnership coordinator to expand its reach into underserved rural communities using its mobile museum and lab. This work aims to close major achievement gaps for underserved students—which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic—by providing critical STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) experiences that foster creativity and develop an inventive mindset. The museum will partner with four community-based organizations to provide on-site STEAM experiences for children in early learning programs through middle school. The majority of these youth will be from Title I and rural community schools throughout the county. The museum will evaluate the program’s success through bimonthly meetings.
Children’s Museum Houston
The Children’s Museum Houston will address negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on science education by partnering with Houston Independent School District to produce resources for predominately low-income students in grades 1–5 and their families. All activities will align with the school district’s plan for reversing consequences of a “lost” school year due to the pandemic. The program will create 30 English and Spanish educational videos, 15 downloadable bilingual activities using inexpensive or readily available materials, and 15 bilingual parent fliers to support family engagement. In addition to short-term improvements in student learning opportunities, this program will develop and strengthen a working collaboration between the museum and school district to support future projects. The museum’s Board Evaluation Committee will evaluate efficacy and the museum will publish findings at informalscience.org.
Children’s Museum of Eau Claire
Eau Claire, Wisconsin
The Children’s Museum of Eau Claire in Wisconsin will open two new Play Spaces, or pop-up museum spaces, that will enable the museum to support children and families as they recover from COVID-19 pandemic-related learning loss. The museum’s one current Play Space has been operating at full capacity since opening in March 2021 and requires advance registration. Due to capacity limits, the museum has had to turn visitors away every day. The new Play Spaces will be located in counties with some of the highest museum attendance rates in the past.
Children’s Museum Tucson
Children’s Museum Tucson will partner with Title I schools, community organizations, and libraries to deliver virtual outreach programs with accompanying hands-on activity kits to elementary students throughout the region. The COVID-19 pandemic sharply highlighted the need for educational resources that support families, children, and educators in non-traditional formats and informal educational environments. During the pandemic, the museum shifted its programming to provide bilingual STEM, literacy and arts-based engagement to elementary classrooms and community organizations in an interactive virtual format. Educators may select from a variety of lesson themes aligned with Arizona Academic Standards. Lessons are led by museum educators in either English or Spanish language formats and include live virtual engagement and hands-on activity kits. Demand for this programming has increased, and this project will provide more than 10,000 students in grades pre-K-6 with access to these resources.
Cincinnati Museum Center
The Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) will commemorate the 200th anniversary of Jewish community life in the city by designing and producing a major exhibition. Developed in collaboration with Jewish Cincinnati Bicentennial, the exhibition will anchor this community-wide celebration and serve as a safe, trusted space t for diverse audiences to engage in dialogue and participate in programming together. The exhibition will provide a sweeping history of the contributions of Jews to Cincinnati over the last 200 years, inspire future generations to be proud of their heritage and invite visitors to connect their personal experiences with those of Jewish immigrants and migrants. The exhibit will invite everyone in Cincinnati, no matter what culture or faith, to be part of this shared story by honoring the distinct traditions and identities that each person carries.
Connecticut Science Center
The Connecticut Science Center will respond to a COVID-19 need expressed by families for outdoor learning experiences by developing four outdoor, STEM-focused events at its outdoor plaza. Each event will focus on different areas of science and will feature partnerships with local arts performers, vendors, and partners, as well as museum educators who will lead interactive science demonstrations that connect to Next Generation Science Standards. Additionally, the museum will develop a permanent outdoor interactive exhibit that allows visitors to use their shadow to tell the time, along with additional content that supports citizen science activities. Project activities will support students’ recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic by providing outdoor STEM experiences outdoors that help them connect to the local environment.
Discovery Center at Murfree Spring
The Discovery Center at Murfree Spring in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, will conduct an audience-informed professional development initiative to ensure the post-pandemic return of a supportive and accessible museum environment for children with disabilities and their families. Museum staff will receive training in designing and implementing programs that accommodate the needs of visitors with varying abilities. The museum also will revitalize its special needs council—an advisory group of professionals with expertise in occupational therapy, special education, and museum accessibility—to support programming that engages children with disabilities. The museum will inform its programming by conducting focus groups with children with disabilities and their families.
Discovery Center Museum
The Discovery Center Museum will enhance classroom learning and mitigate student learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic by delivering a suite of STEM-focused programming for students enrolled in afterschool programs at ten at-risk elementary schools. Museum staff will visit each school two times per month, reaching approximately 100 students in each program with hands-on, interactive STEM activities that enhance their classroom work. To engage families, the museum will host one two-hour Family Night at each elementary school, offering hands-on, STEM based activities to students and their family members. Finally, each afterschool program will make a free STEM-focused field trip to the museum where students can extend their science learning. The project is designed to spark an interest in and build confidence with STEM to support increased student achievement in these subject areas.
DISCOVERY Children’s Museum
Las Vegas, Nevada
Discovery Children’s Museum in Las Vegas will expand its existing DISCOVERY on Wheels program to reach 18,000 students in the classroom and community childcare locations across the Las Vegas Valley as the local community recovers from the economic and educational impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is an innovative, immersive learning experience using medical models, replicas, children’s literature, and dynamic presentations to teach practical, age-appropriate health science to children in pre-K through 5th grade. The curriculum is based on Nevada State Academic Content Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. Through the program’s unique curriculum for each grade level, children can grow with the program and learn something new each year. The program will inspire interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects and health or medical careers, improve health outcomes, and increase access to high-quality educational experiences for underserved children.
Santa Ana, California
Discovery Science Center of Orange County in Santa Ana, California, will rehire and train essential staff to support an ocean-based field trip designed to bring students to the coast who could not otherwise have this experience. The project will offer 36 free field trips for Title I schools and directly benefit K–12 student populations that have all been disproportionately affected by learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including low-income ethnic or racial minority populations, immigrants, and students with mental or physical challenges and disabilities. Students will experience hands-on activities that will teach them to make real contributions to ongoing citizen science projects.
The Discovery Museum in Acton, Massachusetts, will develop educational resources and outdoor programs to raise awareness of the short- and long-term mental health benefits of connecting with nature. While people of all ages and backgrounds have experienced heightened anxiety and depression as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, children and parents—Discovery Museum’s core audience—are among the hardest hit populations, according to both state and national data. Working with community organizations that provide clinical and other services to families, the museum will develop learning experiences to increase participants’ knowledge about the ways in which being outdoors can decrease stress and anxiety and boost mood. The museum will provide free memberships to families with financial needs and develop nature-based learning experiences to support families who have children with disabilities. This project will build the museum’s capacity to provide nature-focused experiences to all visitors through new staffing, programs, and partnerships.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Discovery Place will hire a director of digital experiences to lead the museum’s digital programs and platform efforts. This individual will drive digital inclusion efforts with student and family audiences through programs such as Stay-at-Home Science while also creating adult-focused programming. This work will allow the museum to reach community members who historically have been excluded from cultural institutions by centering content development strategy around community needs, rather than simply prescribing programming for communities. The new staff member will observe how families, schools, adults, and members engage with the center; solicit community members’ feedback on programming; evaluate digital platform metrics to date; and craft and execute a plan that serves the center’s local, regional, and potentially national community. The COVID-19 pandemic shift to virtual and digital programming demonstrated the community’s need for virtual STEM learning opportunities.
Don Harrington Discovery Center
The Don Harrington Discovery Center, a science center in Amarillo, Texas, will develop a culturally relevant and responsive community program celebrating scientists, philosophers, technologies, and the history of science from countries representative of Amarillo’s refugee communities through rotating exhibits and community programs. Through this program, the broader community will learn about the scientific accomplishments and societal impact of their new neighbors’ cultures. This project also will provide culturally relevant STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning opportunities to engage refugee youth around STEM concepts and potential careers in STEM and combat pandemic-related learning loss within these communities. Finally, the program will help the science center overcome challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic by attracting more visitors through new programs and exhibits, increasing revenue, and leveraging contributions through program support and new sponsorship opportunities.
ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain
ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont, will establish programs to help Burlington High School students, whose school was closed by the COVID-19 pandemic and then closed again for a multi-year building renovation. The museum will collaborate with the school to establish the Burlington High School Special Access Program to support repeat visitation and project-based learning. The museum also will develop the Burlington High School Development Institute–Museum Partnership Track and serve as a breakout space for teachers to plan lessons that integrate museum resources in collaboration with museum educators. Further, the museum will establish the High School Field Trip Activity and Extension Library by paying teachers to reuse their museum-integrated lessons plans. These products will form the basis of a field trip and extension library that other high schools visiting the museum can use.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Explora will implement their Empowering Teens for Mental Health at X Studio project. This work will bring together local teens, mental health professionals, and museum staff to develop expanded teen mental health programs and resources, increase museum staff capacity to support teens’ mental health, increase teens’ awareness of mental health careers, and design a teen lounge at Explora’s new X Studio. The project team will learn from Explora teens and teens in the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council about their concerns, aspirations, and specific questions related to mental health during the emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic. It also will hire and train staff with a focus on socioemotional learning and youth development and guide the teens through an evaluation of their project.
Exploration Place in Wichita, Kansas, will create and implement an online and in-person educational program that will promote recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic by raising awareness of key mental health issues and teaching strategies that program participants can use to improve their own mental health. The project also will support national efforts to address the unequal socioeconomic impact of mental illness and reduce the stigma that prevents many people from seeking treatment. Through a combination of live science experiments, hands-on activities, and games, attendees of all ages will learn about the differences between good and bad mental health, understand misconceptions about mental illness, and learn how to improve their daily mental health.
Glazer Children’s Museum
The Glazer Children’s Museum (GCM) in Tampa, Florida, will implement four enhancements to its digital programming. First, GCM will expand two digital learning platforms—GCM@Home and Learn&Play@Home—to provide additional educational videos and activities to complement e-learning and help parents facilitate play at home. Second, GCM will also create three virtual field trips for students in kindergarten through grade 4 designed to spark curiosity and interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math.) Third, GCM will expand its social media app to provide consistent and engaging content on topics that align with seasonal museum programs and events. Fourth, GCM will pilot a virtual summer reading series. These programs provide a much-needed respite for children and families while the community recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Great Explorations Children’s Museum
St. Petersburg, Florida
Great Explorations Children’s Museum will implement an outreach program in the Midtown neighborhood of South St. Petersburg, Florida, to teach middle-school-aged youth how to plant a garden. Midtown is an urban food desert with no grocery store in a three-mile radius that has fresh produce available. The museum will incorporate STEAM methods of learning, teach SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed-Upon, Realistic, Timely) goal setting, and provide high-school-aged mentors to guide younger students throughout the program. Graduates of the program will receive a starter garden kit to take home and grow with their family and track its progress. The garden area will remain open at the end of the project as a community garden for the Midtown Neighborhood. The project will help with recovery from the pandemic by addressing the area’s food insecurity by teaching students how to sustain their own food source.
The Grout Museum in Waterloo, Iowa, is working to gather, save, and share the voices of Black community members for future generations. The lack of Black perspective in the Grout Museum’s oral histories was brought to light during the 2020 social justice movement. The museum plans to hire a local Black professional videographer to conduct the oral histories of Black community members. The museum will collaborate with the community-based Black Stories Collective Committee to share the stories though exhibitions and online publications. The project will promote cultural understanding in the community by fully telling the local history, making it representative of the entire community and ensuring diverse perspectives are heard, particularly as visitors return to the museum following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Imagine Children’s Museum
Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett, Washington, will continue sponsoring free and reduced-admission programs for families. The museum will resume monthly free-of-charge Friday nights to help the community reconnect and recover from the pandemic by learning together through play. The museum also will expand and enrich its monthly sensory mornings, which provide children with disabilities a safe and supportive place to play and learn. In addition, the museum will provide free memberships to encourage foster care families to use the museum as a place to strengthen relationships and help children heal.
International Museum of Art and Science
The International Museum of Art and Science will engage elementary students in the McAllen Independent School District with hands-on science activities and problem-solving, helping bridge the learning gap caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Programs will align with state education standards and help prepare students for the state science exam. Previous science programming led by the museum resulted in students’ increased interest and retention of science facts, as indicated by teacher evaluations. The museum will provide each student with a voucher to visit the museum free of charge and extend their science learning. Teachers will learn engagement and reflection techniques modeled by museum staff that can contribute to a more collaborative learning environment in the classroom. Additionally, museum staff will participate in professional development training that supports their development and delivery of education programs.
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
New York, New York
The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, based in New York City, will broaden outreach for its long-standing leadership and science program for girls to provide families and communities with an essential support network. In particular, the museum will encourage youth from low-income neighborhoods, which have been especially hard-hit by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, to pursue education and careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. The museum’s free yearlong program integrates STEM disciplines into real-world experiences and applications, introduces girls to female role models active in STEM fields, and provides girls with social and professional support, including near-peer mentors from the program’s alumnae network. The museum will conduct community outreach at New York City Housing Authority housing sites and develop informational resources that are welcoming, inclusive, and culturally responsive to enable parents and caregivers to encourage youth participation.
Kidspace Children’s Museum
Kidspace Children’s Museum in Pasadena, California, will launch a free bimonthly program for parents, infants, and toddlers. The program will provide access to the museum for early childhood education classes one weekday morning and one weekend morning to accommodate parents’ work schedules. It will address the isolation that parents with very young children often face, which has been heightened by the pandemic. The program will feature parent education, open-ended play in a variety of developmentally appropriate styles (from tummy time to imaginative play), and immersive art and music offerings. The museum will deliver the program in a hybrid on-site/online model to reach as many families as possible. The museum will promote the program through community partners in education, baby wellness, and social services.
KidsQuest Children’s Museum
KidsQuest Children’s Museum in Bellevue, Washington, will expand and improve two of its educational programs, Little Labs and Learning Kits, to serve families with children ages 3–5 in need of opportunities for educational enrichment. Little Labs and Learning Kits will help close the learning gap for families emerging from screen-dominated, socially isolated pandemic conditions, who are in need of hands-on experiences and meaningful, personal interactions. Little Labs will engage families through 6-week sessions in partnership with south King County libraries that serve low-income, marginalized communities. Community partners will provide participating families with free Learning Kits that include materials for hands-on playful learning and multilingual curriculum cards for guided at-home exploration. The museum also will add two new themed kits and expand their distribution. These programs will prepare preschoolers for kindergarten and engage parents and caregivers in their children’s learning activities.
Long Island Children’s Museum
Garden City, New York
Long Island Children’s Museum in New York will expand its Westbury STEM Partnership, a school-museum teaching collaboration with Westbury School District that serves first and second grade students, to include third grade students, their teachers, and their families in STEM learning. This expansion will mitigate the significant learning loss that these students experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program addresses the ongoing need for high-quality STEM education in a school district that is largely low-income and non-white, with significant numbers of immigrant students. Among other activities, the program will build students’ STEM-related skills and knowledge by providing multiple opportunities to engage in inquiry-based activities using problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
Louisiana Art and Science Museum
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
The Louisiana Art and Science Museum will create new digital tours for its Solar System gallery, Ancient Egypt gallery, and Our Louisiana main art gallery, which will be an integral part of the museum’s in-person guided tour and guided exploration programs for kindergarten through 12th-grade students. Each digital tour will feature a gallery tour guided by staff content experts alongside collaborating content experts, in addition to close-up investigations of relevant objects from the museum’s collection. After the digital tour presentation, docents will facilitate a guided discussion and investigation of the gallery, along with a hands-on activity for students participating in guided exploration programs. The museum also will develop a new volunteer docent program. This project will enhance the museum’s capacity to deliver interpretation-driven, docent-guided programs for students, especially during the museum’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marbles Kids Museum
Raleigh, North Carolina
The Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh, North Carolina, will expand its Full Circle Access programs to provide enriching, hands-on learning for underserved children and families in Wake County most impacted by the pandemic. The museum will distribute “play passes” to Full Circle partner agencies so families can visit whenever their schedules allow, and it also will host special events for families served by partner organizations to visit as a group during exclusive hours. Caregivers will be invited to attend informational workshops on topics relevant to their families while children are engaged in supervised programming and play in the museum’s exhibits. The museum will provide free after-hours programming for children with disabilities and their families.
McWane Science Center
The McWane Science Center will grow the McWane Academy Educational Initiatives for the 2021-2022 school year. These initiatives include developing and implementing school-based outreach programs, virtual programming, teacher workshops, and classroom resources. The museum will use the lessons learned during the pandemic to fully develop an expanded educational delivery model—securing digital programming as a staple in addition to in-person services. This project will create unique learning opportunities to assist those students most at-risk for learning gaps related to COVID-19 pandemic related closures and restrictions.
Minnesota Children’s Museum
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Minnesota Children’s Museum in St. Paul will reinvigorate its family learning programs, which were eliminated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The programs will support lower income families in raising thriving children by providing free or discounted admission. The museum will work with community partners and public schools to ensure access for as many families as possible. Programs will include free family nights, workshops to support playful learning, and free play kits distributed through partners to families in need. The museum also will hire a new partner engagement manager to develop and deepen community alliances and reach more parents. By reactivating these programs, the museum will ensure access for lower‐income families and provide support for the role of play in children’s growth and learning as well as community recovery and healing.
Museum of Life and Science
Durham, North Carolina
The Museum of Life and Science will work with Durham Public Schools to develop STEM-oriented, nature-based learning experiences for elementary students for delivery in natural environments at or near schools. The project will also produce associated professional development for teachers and facilitators. The COVID-19 pandemic increased awareness of the benefits of outdoor-based learning, including reduced risk of viral transmission, improved physical and mental health, and support of learning outcomes. Local teachers reported a need for outdoor-based experiences as well as training to improve their skills and comfort to teach in outdoor environments, including those not designed for learning. The museum will develop six learning experiences for K-5 students that align with state education standards along with reusable materials for use by participating classes. Up to 20 teachers will participate in professional development, helping to seed expertise at elementary schools throughout the county.
Museum of Science, Boston
The Museum of Science, Boston will offer a free series of interactive, synchronous virtual learning experiences that introduces students to STEM topics. The museum will design the project to increase the accessibility and flexibility of these virtual synchronous programs for K-12 educators and students. In response to ongoing social distancing restrictions due to COVID-19, the museum piloted the initial session of Museum of Science at School virtual program in 2020. Continuing into the future, the virtual program for schools and teachers will allow the museum to utilize accessible complements to traditional on-site programs and classroom lessons.
Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
The Museum of Science and Industry (MSI), Chicago will implement a two-part community outreach project to bring dynamic science content beyond the museum and into Chicago communities. Building on successful live, onsite programming, MSI will develop a new offsite program. This program will bring MSI’s Guest Experiences team to schools and community spaces throughout Chicago with four types of interactive experiences: Learning Lab, School Assembly, Whole-School Takeover, and Science Fair. In summer 2022, MSI will partner with community serving organizations to distribute summer science kits that provide hands-on learning activities. MSI will partner with Chicago Public Library, Chicago Park District, local schools, and other community organizations to reach elementary and middle school youth across Chicago’s neighborhoods. These programs seek to promote educational growth and emotional healing from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Museum of the Earth
Ithaca, New York
The Museum of the Earth will develop the Here on Earth component of Earth@Home online, an open educational resource platform that will provide high school teachers with regionally contextualized geoscience content and career path guidance that they can integrate into their lessons and classrooms. Here on Earth will increase awareness of Earth science among high school students, increase awareness of geoscience careers, and help diversify the geosciences workforce. The museum will partner with high school science programs, natural history museums, and national public parks around the country to connect existing PRI Earth science learning resources with a wider national community of high school teachers and their students. This online learning resource for teachers seeks to address the weakness and limitations in available online learning resources exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Los Angeles, California
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition—and co-curated by representatives of the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe—will produce the temporary exhibition Bears Ears: Living Land. The exhibition will be the first to present the significance of the Bears Ears region from the perspective of these Tribes, which consider the area integral to their way of life. The exhibition will explore the intersection between living people, the objects they create, their ancestors, and the land. The exhibition will set a new standard for co-curation between Native groups and museums and provide Native communities with resources enhancing their capacity to manage and promote understanding about their cultural heritage, as local communities recover from the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Raleigh, North Carolina
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences will create and deliver programs in Spanish to reconnect with Spanish-speaking audiences. After creating and expanding its well-attended first Spanish-language programming in late 2019, the museum had to pause the program several months later due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This project will focus on reengaging Spanish-speaking audiences by hosting free, live, virtual and in-person programs and producing on-demand online content. The museum will create programming based on its most impactful informal STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) offerings and develop related marketing and communications materials to further the program’s reach.
North Dakota’s Gateway to Science
Bismarck, North Dakota
Gateway to Science Center will train its staff to meet the needs of underserved communities, particularly low-income rural and tribal communities, quickly, effectively, efficiently, and responsibly. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, North Dakota students have experienced COVID fatigue and increased disparities in learning. Staff training will focus on building skills to work with underserved communities. Museum staff will then work with stakeholder groups to develop a framework for community outreach, leading to an increased understanding of effective strategies to engage students in underserved communities and the co-development of inclusive and relevant STEM programs with those communities. In turn, students and their learning support systems across the state will benefit from increased access to and investment in STEM learning opportunities and integration into a supportive ecosystem.
Omaha Children’s Museum
The Omaha Children’s Museum will increase its capacity to serve the community with additional staff, supplies, and transportation for early childhood programs that bring the museum into underserved communities. The Museum Without Walls program addresses barriers of access to informal learning experiences exacerbated by the economic and educational impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as low levels of income, lack of transportation, and language barriers. The program plans to bring museum learning to community events, including Omaha’s Pride festival, Cinco de Mayo celebration, Juneteenth celebration and other community events that focus on topics ranging from STEM education to local artisans. No fees will be charged to participants or partner organizations for Museum Without Walls programming, and the museum intends to select staff members who speak Spanish to conduct Museum Without Walls programming when working at events with Omaha’s Hispanic community.
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland will increase the reach, impact, and sustainability of its digital programming. Supported by three experienced digital content creators, museum staff will create culturally responsive, digital STEAM content that supports underserved audiences and aligns with community needs. Digital delivery was an essential tool during the COVID-19 public health crisis, allowing the museum to take content and education into the community and support teachers, learners, and families. This need for digital programming, while perhaps not as acute as at the height of the pandemic, will not go away entirely any time soon. The museum will continue to deliver innovative, effective digital content to increase access and broaden participation in its programs.
Orlando Science Center
Orlando Science Center in Florida will partner with Orange County Public Schools to provide school field trips focused on STEM and engineering design for K-5 students. The museum will recruit at least 120 classrooms, with a focus on Title I schools and those who are underrepresented and underserved as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. They will engage approximately 3,000 students and their teachers in sparking lifelong STEM learning, cultivating STEM and 21st century skills (collaboration and critical thinking), and providing awareness of a path to further STEM education and careers, ultimately leading to greater community prosperity by preparing Central Florida’s future STEM workforce.
Providence Children’s Museum
Providence, Rhode Island
Providence Children’s Museum will expand a successful pilot collaboration first established in 2020 with the Rhode Island Department of Education to advance engaging, hands-on, and personalized digital inclusion programs for children K–3. The museum is providing training to teachers to develop virtual or in-class lesson plans and programming and offering a series of play-based online enrichment courses. As children return to school and teachers address learning loss resulting from school closures and remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, these programs will benefit students who have not been in the classroom routinely and/or need highly interactive and engaging lessons and experiences from remote enrichment, distance, or in-person learning.
Putnam Museum and Science Center
The Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa, will provide in-person and virtual versions of its week-long STEM residency program for K–6 students, which is free for Title I students and their teachers. The center also will provide a program for English language learner students’ household members, who will take part in family workshops, free passes and memberships, and an afterschool/weekend year-round academy for students in grades 4–6 focused on helping them gain new knowledge, make up for learning time and vocabulary development lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, discover their passions, and prep for high school career academies. Tools such as Likert scales and pre-/post-tests will help assess the museum’s ability to help at-risk and struggling students gain knowledge and improve parents’ opportunities to take part in their children’s learning.
Rochester Museum and Science Center
Rochester, New York
The Rochester Museum and Science Center and community partners will provide a full-day field trip experience to the museum for third grade students as well as three public program days. The disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Black community, combined with local events, created a new consensus around the need for systemic change to address racism. In collaboration with the Take It Down Planning Committee of community activists and the Rochester City School District, the program will utilize the “Take It Down” exhibit, which tells the story of a community led effort to remove racist artwork from a historic carousel, as a tool for anti-racism education. Designed and taught by museum educators and Black community activists, the program engages participants in activities and dialogue to inspire and empower audiences to work for change.
San Diego Natural History Museum
San Diego, California
The San Diego Natural History Museum will create and deliver an interactive exhibition for learners of all ages focused on the Baja California Peninsula, a uniquely varied environment with spectacular biodiversity. The new 2,000 sq. ft. exhibition will enable visitors to follow the length of the peninsula, delving into regional research and conservation stories and learning about the unique habitats of sky and sea islands, palm oases, and fog deserts. The exhibition will introduce residents and visitors to the County of San Diego; the larger tourist region of California, Arizona, and northern Mexico; and the border cities of San Diego, California; Tijuana, Mexico; and Baja California, Mexico. The immersive exhibition will attract local visitors back to the museum and aid the community’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ithaca, New York
Sciencenter in Ithaca, New York, will conduct a capacity-building project to improve the museum’s digital infrastructure and expand community access to programming. COVID-19 exacerbated typical patterns of learning loss, and the Sciencenter worked with teachers, libraries, and community organizations to support online learning throughout the pandemic. To continue this momentum, they plan to upgrade the museum’s Wi-Fi connectivity, increasing access and reliability for visitors and supporting the development of digital programs for target audiences. Working with community partners, Sciencenter will create interactive STEM programs that complement classroom learning for students in grades pre-K through 6. By relating content to students’ personal experiences and surroundings, they will foster higher engagement in activities and help to address the pandemic’s impact on STEM learning.
Sci-Port Discovery Center
Sci-Port Discovery Center in Shreveport, Louisiana, will partner with the Caddo Correctional Center’s reentry facility to provide hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) activities. The COVID-19 pandemic halted family contact visits and Sci-Port interventions at the reentry facility for 9 months in 2020. Sci-Port staff will reinvigorate the STEM program, with reentry facility staff identifying incarcerated persons to participate. Once again, Sci-Port staff will offer training sessions at the reentry facility on a weekly basis, alternating between trainings designed for prisoners and trainings designed for their families, with incarcerated persons serving as mentors. The project will help the community heal by alleviating isolation caused by the pandemic and bringing enrichment activities to some of its most vulnerable citizens.
spectrUM Discovery Area, University of Montana
The University of Montana’s spectrUM Discovery Area will hire a diversity and inclusion program manager and provide trainings to staff and partners to establish an inclusive learning environment for all in its new home at the Missoula Public Library. This project responds to the need for a well-trained team to engage Missoula’s diverse audiences and will build the capacity of spectrUM and its partner organizations to serve the public, including people experiencing homelessness, people of color, Indigenous people, and LGBTQ people. By embedding free, equitable, inclusive programs in its vibrant community gathering space, spectrUM and its partners will serve as a place where people of all income levels and backgrounds can gather, learn, and experience STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) together as communities recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stepping Stones Museum for Children
Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Connecticut will hire a multimedia director and continue to retain an audiovisual consultant who is refining the museum’s video production process, the centerpiece of a new e-community platform funded by other sources and launching in early 2022. This work will allow the museum to deepen its expertise in creating, curating, and presenting digital media in English and Spanish. The individuals in these roles will help frame and advance the museum objective to better pair digital resources with hands-on activity kits and supports, as well as establish a schedule of gradually increasing in-person, on-site experiences that will be launched after November 2021. The museum will track project management milestones and deliverables and will evaluate milestones using an overarching logic model and the Results-Based Accountability™ model matrix. This initiative will address the community need for multimedia and hybrid learning resources caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah, will establish the Education Explorers program to bring the institute’s programs to the community and combat learning loss due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The institute recognizes that, for many, in-person visits are challenging due to distance, cost, limited free time, or not having access to reliable transportation. It will partner with other nonprofits, community organizations, and schools to expand its STEM education programs to community organizations and schools. Programs will cover entomology, paleontology, robotics, environmental science, agriculture, Makerspace, and more. This project will serve low-income and marginalized Utah populations to increase students’ critical thinking skills and curiosity, promote higher academic achievement, and improve social/emotional skills.
The Bakken Museum
The Bakken in Minneapolis will host a COVID-19 response racial equity training program for its staff to implement research-based equity and inclusion practices. The museum believes that its staff must confront their own internal biases and inherent discriminatory culture to better engage with Minnesota’s African American, Indigenous, and Latino communities, who have been disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Every member of the Bakken will receive tools to engage their museum work in a more equitable, inclusive manner and better serve their community.
The Wild Center
Tupper Lake, New York
The Wild Center, a natural history center in New York state, will create a fellowship program to support recovery from the economic and social impacts of COVID-19 and attract young people to Adirondack Park, a rural, underserved region of the state. The fellowship program will diversify the center’s workforce to better reflect changing demographics, especially as it expands its online educational offerings beyond the region. The Wild Center will recruit, hire, and mentor a diverse cohort of fellows to prepare them to work in a science center or museum and teach them to facilitate online programming at the center during their fellowship year. This program will help rebuild the center’s institutional capacity to serve digital pre-K through 12th-grade audiences and families, in addition to its approximately 100,000 annual on-site visitors.
Tulsa Children’s Museum
The Tulsa Children’s Museum Discovery Lab will respond to students’ pandemic-related learning hurdles by creating a hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) 8-week series. The museum will design the series, informed by Oklahoma Academic Standards, to supplement and complement traditional classroom curricula from kindergarten to 6th grade. The museum will provide the series through free and reduced-cost programming to three pilot schools serving economically marginalized families, estimated to impact 1,344 students. The series will provide opportunities for hands-on activities reinforcing the STEM curricula being taught in classrooms, using art as the access point. In addition to the series, museum educators will provide professional development for teachers in facilitation techniques and science content understanding. Program assessment will include pre- and post-activity evaluation with teachers and students and a comparison of changes in students’ STEM attitudes and knowledge.
University of Nebraska State Museum
The University of Nebraska State Museum will revise two of its gallery programs, Nebraska Ecology and Explore Evolution, with updated content and associated activities aligned with Nebraska’s science standards. The museum will also update its Explore Evolution virtual field trip and science kit. The gallery programs are developed for Lincoln public school students who represent a diverse population and include 70% of the school-age students in the metro area. The project will also support rural secondary schools that rely upon Explore Evolution as an important element of their curriculum on genetics, natural selection, and evolution. This project is designed to aid in the COVID-19 pandemic recovery by providing standards aligned programs that help Lincoln students who are falling behind on standards due to educational disruptions, while supporting a return to museum field-trip opportunities.
Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts
Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts in Pennsylvania will respond to learning and engagement difficulties exacerbated by the COVID-19 by expanding its capacity to offer equity, diversity, and inclusion-focused STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs for pre-K through 12th-grade students in the greater Harrisburg area. The center will hire new staff and train current staff to better meet capacity needs and work with partners to plan project activities. Activities will include coding, computer science, and e-sports programs; a speaker series for middle and high school students with professionals of color to bridge the gaps in opportunity for youth; and an emerging healthcare professionals program of in-person and virtual engagement activities with diverse healthcare professionals, specifically designed for youth of color.
San Antonio, Texas
The Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas, will strengthen community engagement in its H-E-B Body Adventure, an innovative model of collaborative museum-civic engagement that provides essential data to improve community health. The exhibition answers a community-wide call for solutions to a childhood obesity epidemic, using digital technologies to deliver health education messages playfully and powerfully in a supportive, nonjudgmental environment. The museum will invigorate the exhibition experience by redesigning and upgrading the You Are What You Drink and South Texas Trailblaze components and adding a Virtual Tag element focused on heart health and physical activity. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and community health needs defined by San Antonio’s Metropolitan Health District, the museum will integrate vaccine awareness into the exhibition content.