FORUM ON EDUCATION
Below is a list of the authors who have contributed to the Fed Newsletter for the period 1993-1996. Each author is followed by indicators for the issue(s) in which their articles appeared. The spring, summer, and fall issues are designated as Spnn, Sunn, and Fann, where nn is the year. Issues since Spring 1994 are on line. The list is populated with links where we have the information online. Some of the issues are not available, and some isolated articles are also unavailable.
Extending the Roots Through Successful Alliances with Other Organizations
To the Editor:
By working with other organizations with similar goals, physics alliances can extend their influence and their support of physics teachers. They may enable your alliances to survive, grow, and serve larger groups of science teachers than you originally envisioned. Some of these "alliances" that have succeeded will be described. Perhaps from them you will be able to get ideas for extending your own alliances.
Professional societies to which you belong often become successful partners. An example is the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). Activities have been carried out at both AAPT and SWE national meetings. One program brought a hundred 5th and 6th grade minority low socio-economic students to meeting sites. There, they rotated through hands-on science activities carried out by role model minority AAPT and SWE members. Another joint activity with SWE has been teacher in-service training. Teachers attending a summer institute of Southeastern Consortium for Minorities in Engineering (SECME) at a university participated in sessions of the SWE convention. Role models talked about engineering and science careers. Teachers participated in a "fair" put on by 25 organizations whose goals included encouraging women and minorities to consider engineering. Teachers met local AAPT and SWE contacts willing to assist them. A local university, working with district teachers on a summer program, brought them, also. Teachers attended exhibits of over 150 companies seeking to hire women engineers and scientists. The exhibits staffs, mostly women of many diversities, were eager to talk about their jobs. These connections with SECME led to participation of AAPT members in a SWE conference program for over 100 SECME secondary students. PTRAs provided demonstrations of fun physics for all and discussed with the teachers how AAPT members could work with them.
Look for organizations with similar interests and goals. Keep your mind open to the question, "What could we do better together?" Physics alliances are enriched by networking with other organizations and they prosper. Joint activities expand both groups and provide unexpected dividends to all involved. Extend the roots of your alliance through successful alliances with others.
Betty P. Preece
Thomas D. Rossing
Informal science education probably reaches a larger percentage of our population than formal science education in schools. Informal science education depends on television, newspapers, books, museums, and science centers to reach the public, young and old. While physics has not penetrated television nearly as much as we would like to see, museums and science centers appear prospering like never before. Alan Friedman, one of our authors, estimates that there are over a thousand science museums in North America.
This issue focuses on science centers. We have contributions from directors at three large, well-known science centers: Robert Semper at the Exploratorium (San Francisco), Alan Friedman at the New York Hall of Science, and Elsa Feher at the Reuben Fleet Science Center (San Diego). We also have contributions from two physicist-volunteers, Ernest Malamud and H. Richard Crane, who have been involved in local science centers; a program director at a major funding agency (NSF), Barbara Butler; and a high school physics teacher, Christopher Chiaverina, who has created interactive museum-type exhibits at public schools.
The message from these leaders to the rest of us is loud and clear: while science centers are going strong, they depend upon volunteers and especially on knowledgeable physicists who are willing to pitch in and help with this important endeavor. Some of us may be willing to construct exhibits in our basement shop, as Dick Crane has done; others may be willing to take a leave of absence from their job, as Ernie Malamud did, to get a new science center up and running. Others may volunteer to serve as fund raisers, scientific consultants, as "explainers," or as boosters in the community. Ernie has even offered to help put physicists in touch with museums that need their help.
I am a science museum "junkie." I rarely miss an opportunity to visit a science museum when I visit another city. The Exploratorium in San Francisco is my favorite. Reflecting the philosophy of Frank Oppenheimer, its founder, it has had a tremendous influence on other science centers. Its interactive exhibits have been copied by many other museums with the blessings of the Exploratorium. In fact, so eager are they to have their exhibits copied, that they have published a series of "Exploratorium Cookbooks," which every physics teacher is encouraged to read.
The IEEE Spectrum has an interesting series of reports on science and technology museums. "WANTED; EE's WITH CHILDREN" was the headline of a call for volunteers to visit science and technology museums and write a report. Every report includes subheadings such as "highlights," "what kids thought," "what adults thought'" and "recommend it?" U.S. Science and Technology Museums, arranged by state, are reviewed in the September and October 1995 issues.
Europe has some outstanding museums: the London Science Museum, the Deutsches Museum in Mnchen, the Palais de la Dcouverte (Palace of Discovery) and Cit des Sciences et de L'Industrie in Paris; the Carlsborg Experimentarium in Kobenhavn; the Teylers Museum in Haarlem, to name a few. International museums are reviewed in IEEE Spectrum, April 1996.
One of my major disappointments, if you don't mind a personal anecdote, was in not having an interactive Exploratorium-type museum facility included in the plans for the recent addition to our physics-chemistry building at Northern Illinois University in spite of my best campaigning. I hope others have been more successful in obtaining space for these, for I feel they represent a unique opportunity to bring physics to the public as well as to students who are curious but not curious enough to enroll in one of our courses. Dick Crane talks about two kinds of visitors at the Ann Arbor science museum: the school kids who arrive by the bus load, and the grandparents who bring their grandchildren.
In this issue, we have discussed only fixed-site museums, but there are many traveling science museums as well. A number of universities have vans with interactive physics exhibits that travel around to schools. Many teachers have become convinced that traveling hands-on exhibits are a more effective type of outreach than traveling lecturers. Perhaps these can be covered in a future issue of the newsletter.
Science Centers: Partners in Science Education
Robert J. Semper
The decade of the 1960's saw the development of a new type of public education institution which became to be known as a science center. Based in part on the established science and industry museums, these institutions were explicitly defined to be education and were made up almost entirely of a collection of demonstrated ideas rather than a collection of objects. This science center movement was stimulated and shaped by the confluence of three trends of the times. The first was a revival of public fascination with science and technology in the aftermath of the second World War. This interest powered a renewed development in the United States of both existing museums and new museums. Recognizing this trend as an opening for the development of public educational institutions, existing museums of historical artifacts and objects such as the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, and the Museum of Science in Boston began to add more interactive exhibits.
The second trend was the science education reform movement of the late fifties to mid-sixties that happened in the United States and in other countries as a result of the launch of the Sputnik satellite by the Soviet Union. The reform movement emphasized hands-on education in science and the importance of working with objects in learning. It drew scientists into the science education enterprise in a big way and it was the start not only of many new curriculum efforts for the schools, but also a series of science centers in the United States and abroad. These science centers, such as the ones in Berkeley, Toronto, Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco focused on presenting basic science in an informal and engaging way.
The third trend aspect was the general education reform movement of the late sixties which occurred in the United States and in other countries. The hallmark of this movement was a reaction against the authoritative structures of formal education. There was a developing sense that individuals should be much more in control of their own learning. This thinking resulted in the development of new forms of educational and social systems throughout the world which focused on informal, community-based multi-generational learning.
Since the late sixties, the science center community has experienced tremendous growth. From the handful of institutions in existence in the US by 1969 (e.g., the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (1957), the Pacific Science Center (1963), the New York Hall of Science (1966), Lawrence Hall of Science (1968), Ontario Science Centre (1969), and the Exploratorium (1969)) the science center community worldwide has grown to include over 364 members of the Association of Science Technology Centers (ASTC). By some estimates there are over 100 million visits to these institutions annually in the US alone (1996 ASTC/CIMUSET Directory and Statistics).
Over the past years these centers have also grown in terms of their mission. While most often associated with the casual visit by a family on a weekend afternoon or the sixth grade class field trip, science centers are increasingly playing a significant role in supporting education in a larger arena. A recent study commissioned by ASTC (First Hand Learning) has pointed out that over 20% of the elementary school in-service teacher development occurs in science museums. Some of the major school science curriculums in use today have been developed by science centers. And science centers have been at the forefront of supporting the institutionalization of inquiry-based instruction in the schools, a key aspect of the recently promulgated National Academy of Sciences science education standards. This role has capitalized on the science center's unique position as an independent institution, yet connected between the school, the home, and the community.
The Exploratorium today
The Exploratorium, like many other science centers today, sees its mission as being much broader than just providing an experience for a visiting public. From its very inception in 1969, its founder, Dr. Frank Oppenheimer, envisioned creating a place which provided adjunctive educational experiences to formal schooling. Therefore, throughout its development, the museum explored ways to reach additional audiences beyond the casual public visitors, such as through books magazines, television and teacher workshops.
Our goal is to create and sustain a culture of learning which fosters the process of personal inquiry, experimentation, communication, understanding, and the sharing of values about our world. To meet this goal, the Exploratorium, under the leadership of its new director, French physicist and science educator Dr. Gory DelaØote, reorganized itself into three interlocking centers of programmatic activity: the Center for Public Exhibition, the Center for Teaching and Learning, and the Center for Media and Communication.
The Center for Public Exhibition, as the public part of the museum, oversees the development and operation of over 600 interactive exhibits on the museum floor and provides programming to complement these exhibits. Exhibited subjects include light, color, vision, sound and hearing, waves and resonance, heat and temperature, structure and scale, human and animal perception, neurobiology, animal behavior, electricity and magnetism, language, mathematics and weather and the environment. The Center operates an r & d shop which develops exhibits and associated programming for use by over 650,000 visitors per year. Through its exhibit services division, the museum uses its development capacity to provide exhibits and consulting support to science museums worldwide.
The Center for Teaching and Learning serves more than 550 Bay Area teachers in grades K through 12 each year with intensive workshops and follow-up seminars based on the exhibit collection designed to foster increased effectiveness in today's classrooms. Through this work it has developed a network of 2500 teachers, many of whom return periodically to receive additional support. Its national professional development programs are designed to support teacher developers nationwide as they implement the new national science education standards. The center is also responsible for outreach programs that reach more than 3400 underserved children annually, as well as the high school explainer and field trip programs which reach 69,000 students and their teachers annually.
The Center for Media and Communication, the newest of the three centers, is dedicated to support the development of scientific literacy through communication and the use of media. This center uses publishing and new media, such as the Internet, to carry the Exploratorium's pedagogy beyond the walls of the museum, while developing interactive media tools for learning within the museum itself. Recent projects include the creation of the Explorabook, a science museum in a book; the Science Snackbook, a teacher-developed guide to the creation of classroom versions of Exploratorium exhibits, and the Family Science Snackbook, a book of science activities for parents and their children. The Center's World Wide Web site originates programming based on the museum's exhibits and the teaching resources, and it currently attracts over 600,000 remote users per year.
Science centers are situated at a special nexus between the community, the school, and the home. This position gives them a unique role in the educational infrastructure, one which can propel science education reform into the 21st century. During the last science education reform push, the task was the job of schools and universities. This time around, there is a powerful new ally to help.
Robert Semper is Executive Associate Director of the Exploratorium. He formerly served on the faculty at St.Olaf College and as a research associate at Johns Hopkins University.