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The Stewardship Stories project is a collaboration between the ECHO Lake Aquarium & Science Center and WPTZ News Channel 5 (WPTZ) that will prototype a museum-media partnership that combines the interpretive expertise of a science center, the mass public appeal of a television news channel, and the accessibility of a community-driven Web site to engage audiences to take environmental action in their local communities. By creating a new conservation correspondent position producing weekly news segments, the project will provide authentic examples of community members taking responsibility for stewardship of the natural environment while the museum adds tangible 21st-century solutions for meeting the rapidly evolving social and educational needs of audiences.
The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago, Illinois, will launch an heirloom seed library that will provide free, regionally adapted seeds to urban farmers. The seed library is dedicated to conserving the diversity of our planet's seed stock and fostering sustainable food systems and communities throughout the city. The project changes the way cultural institutions address the pressing issue of sustainability, making new connections between environmental diversity and cultural diversity. The public is invited to apply for a library card in order to "check out" seeds with the agreement that they grow them out and return some seeds of the next generation at the end of the season. The seed library will be a way to make a necessary resource accessible to a broad group of people, create a new community of urban farmers, and bridge those who grow for fun and those who must grow out of necessity.
Please Touch Museum and its partner, the Philadelphia Zoo, are planning to develop and pilot a staff training and retention program. The project is an effort to address the desire of several Philadelphia non-profits to hire staff from their neighborhoods in order to combat underemployment and unemployment in their community. It is intended to help improve the local economy, fill available entry-level positions and, most importantly, retain employees from the neighborhood once they’ve been placed in these positions.
The Museum of Art and History at the McPherson Center will use this grant to support the Loyalty Lab project, the goal of which is to develop strategies for small and mid-sized cultural institutions to track, celebrate, and deepen participant engagement. The Loyalty Lab will enable small institutions like the Museum of Art and History to celebrate and cultivate deeper relationships with participants by experimenting with low-tech, low-cost techniques for tracking and rewarding participation. Using customized strategies from the for-profit world of customer relationship management, museum staff and volunteers will work together to explore ways to celebrate active visitor participation, encourage deeper and repeat engagement, and support relationship building in a systematic way. This work will be shared with colleagues at small institutions around the world through a blog-style website documenting the work in real time.
North Carolina Botanical Gardens “Healing and Hope through Science” program will partner with NCSU College of Design to design and create a hands-on, interactive, miniature nature exhibit called the Plant Play Pushcart. This greenhouse-garden-on-wheels will provide a bedside field trip for hospitalized children at UNC Hospital that will be, experiential, multisensory, and safe. It will enable children to work with live plant materials without danger of infection by using a sealed greenhouse-type structure. Interacting with the Hands-on Plant Play Pushcart will increase enjoyment and positive distraction, decrease perception of pain, and provide environmental education to hospitalized children who are typically denied the healing effects that nature experiences can produce.
In partnership with the North Carolina Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and the Governor Morehead School for the Blind, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences will work with a software developer to prototype a state-of-the-art software application that will enhance and make more meaningful the museum experience for visually impaired and blind visitors. The application, based on one developed for hotel environments, will provide detailed way-finding maps and enhanced exhibition interpretation. The application will be made available for other museums to adapt for their own environments.
San Diego Society of Natural History will use popular technology, social software, and digitized natural history collections to reconnect the public with nature. NatureSpace addresses the challenge of making digitized natural history collections, which are traditionally not designed to be accessible to the average person, more engaging through a new user-friendly front-end interface. Working with volunteer organizations interested in interpreting three local natural areas in the San Diego region, the museum will prototype 18 user-centered tools such as scavenger hunts and interpretive walks for the NatureSpace mobile application. The final products will be openly shared with the museum community.
The Chabot Space & Science Museum will produce Random Acts of Science, a pop-up science education program for underserved neighborhoods in Oakland. Inspired by, and in partnership with, the Oakland Firefighter’s Random Acts (a philanthropic outreach organization of Oakland Firefighters), the program will pair trusted and respected firefighters with astronomers and science educators, arriving by fire engine to communities whose members are least likely to come to the Science Center. Chabot will use mobile technology and equipment such as a traveling telescope, computer hookup, and large portable screen. The combination of portable astronomy equipment with the excitement of a fire engine has the potential to serve as a model for science education community outreach programs.
Through Art in Health: Observation in Practice, the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum will address the lack of evaluation in art observation training for medical professionals and attempt to determine what influence such training partnerships have on the clinical skills of students. As well as developing documentation for an innovative art observation training program, the museum will prototype a tool to assess student skills improvement in simulated clinical settings. If transferability of skills learned at museums to external professional contexts can be established, it will encourage a societal reframing and revaluing of art museums as sites of critical skills acquisition. All training materials and research results will be posted online.
Natural History museums have identified a need to transform their traditional spaces into vital forces for science education. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH) will implement “Seeing as a Scientist,” a design-based research initiative to develop and test gallery interventions that have the potential to increase scientific observation skills for family groups. Working with the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments (UPCLOSE), CMNH will pilot a series of quick changes and additions to dioramas and outline expectations for each. Visitors will be observed to measure the degree of engagement in scientific observation (deliberate looking in order to understand visual evidence)--an essential skill for learning across scientific disciplines. The four most promising interventions will be evaluated to determine which are most successful in providing the necessary support for families to establish shared focus and two-way, science-based conversation. The project will include a blog to share information and to disseminate the results to other museums.