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Access to high quality environmental education may be particularly critical for expanding children's learning environments and re-establishing awareness of the connection between human well-being and the environment. Virginia Tech will conduct a study to identify the program characteristics that produce the most positive outcomes for youth participating in environmental education fieldtrips at nature centers and national parks in the United States. Working with the National Park Service, the Association of Nature Center Administrators, and the North American Association for Environmental Education, researchers will develop a set of consistent outcome measures for use across diverse programs, they will observe numerous programs to identify characteristics hypothesized to influence these outcomes, and they will determine which characteristics have the greatest influence. The project will result in key practices for developing and delivering programs that enhance positive impacts on youth as well as a set of novel methods for measuring outcomes across diverse types of programs and organizations.
The Brookfield Zoo will scale up its established NatureStart professional development program to create a network that expands the availability of this training for informal educators working in museums that provide early childhood programming based in nature and the environment. The project will work with an expert advisory council to develop training sites and training teams in four regions of the country; adapt NatureStart professional development for institutions beyond zoos, aquariums, and nature centers; design and pilot a blended learning model for NatureStart professional development that includes on-line learning opportunities and regionally-based intensive workshops; and evaluate and disseminate the new learning opportunity.
The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh will develop and test a reliable and valid suite of observation tools for identifying, documenting, and evaluating learners' engagement in maker programs and makerspaces. In partnership with Chicago Public Library, Science Museum of Minnesota, and Millvale Community Library, the museum will lead a three-phase initiative which includes the creation of a suite of observation tools, refinement of these tools to be valid and reliable across various informal learning environments, and dissemination of the tools through in-person and online professional development workshops, a resource guide, and publications. This study will significantly advance a research-based understanding of the assessment of making as a learning process and will support evaluators, researchers, and practitioners by providing tools for advancing theory, assessing impact, and improving design for learning.
Explora will partner with the New Mexico Autism Society in a three-year project to develop new resources to help children and families affected by autism use the museum's STEM exhibits and programs more effectively. The project will create a toolkit, including social stories, visual schedules, sensory maps, and suggestions for tools such as visual timers and noise-canceling headphones. The toolkit is intended for small museums to adapt for use in their communities. Explora will work with three pilot sites - Omaha Children's Museum, Sciencenter in Ithaca, NY, and The Works in Minneapolis - to test, revise, and refine both the toolkit's resources and the co-creation process. In a dissemination phase, Explora will train teams of staff from ten small museums on both the toolkit and community co-creation process. The grants will provide museum professionals with strategies to support STEM exploration among families affected by autism and, as a result, benefit these children and families through increased STEM interest and participation in museum-based STEM activities.
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum will scale up its experimental "Your Story, Our Stories" website into a national program that asks visitors to upload images of, and extended captions for, objects that reveal elements of their personal and family immigration narratives. Immigration scholars and museum curators from across several partner sites will engage in online conversation with website visitors, offering multiple academic perspectives on immigration as a contemporary and historical phenomenon. The museum will integrate a new content management system into its existing website, incorporate a crowd-sourced mapping function and a digital repository, collect new stories at partner sites, and create dynamic programming that draws upon the growing website content. The project will help museums better understand how they can present and interpret authentic narratives to further the national conversation on immigration.
The Carnegie Science Center (CSC) along with a consortium of five other science centers, will expand its STEM Excellence Pathway as a proof of concept for its broad applicability. The Pathway helps science centers support and empower schools and districts to assess their STEM programs, identify needed improvements, and create sustainable plans for addressing them. It is customized to school priorities and complies with Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. CSC will extend the program to its consortium members, each working with ten schools, by providing both workshops and other training for the science centers and Pathway tools, extensive online resources, and a robust suite of training materials and professional development opportunities to use with their school partners. The project will measure the extent to which program partners are better prepared to work with districts and schools to increase the quality of STEM programming and will allow science centers and museums to become catalysts for STEM education improvements in their communities.
The Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) is leading the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' (AZA) effort to create and sustain a large, nationwide network of zoo and aquarium professionals trained to respond to oil spills and other disasters affecting wildlife. Over a three-year period, ASLC, in collaboration with the Oiled Wildlife Response Program at the University of California Davis, will develop and deliver training courses, as well as a mutual aid framework and searchable database, to facilitate rapid identification and deployment of appropriately trained specialists in the event of a disaster. Courses will meet certification requirements for those participating in disaster response and dealing with hazardous material. ASLC will also develop a system for rapid deployment to areas of need including a database of individuals with training, specific skills, and certifications. The project will result in a fully developed system that can be handed off to AZA for administration and maintenance.
The University of Montana's Broader Impacts Group with its spectrUM Discovery Center will partner with the Missoula Food Bank and the Missoula Public Library to create a Family Learning Area at the food bank. The Family Learning Area will serve as a space where young learners and their families can experience hands-on exhibits, read and listen to stories, develop literacy skills, work on homework, interact with educational and career role models, and have access to nutritious meals and snacks. The partners will provide a permanent science exhibit with visiting STEM role models, a rotating book selection, weekly storytime programs and activities, and visits from a mobile computer lab. The project will provide a replicable model for collaborations between museums, libraries, and food banks to close opportunity and achievement gaps, engage underserved community members in hands-on learning experiences, and inspire youth to pursue higher education and rewarding careers.
Imagination Station will develop Prime Time, a preschool network to promote early STEM learning in partnership with University of Toledo, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, The Early Learner's Collaborative, Aspire, Polly Fox Academy, and Summit YMCA Head Start. Prime Time aims to advance the capacity of the field to plan, implement, and evaluate a model of complementary learning for children under kindergarten age, where, rather than operating discretely, these various educational experiences work in tandem as components of a larger STEM education system. The proposed program will align educational resources in the community to address the learning needs of young children and emphasize family engagement in education. Through the project, Imagination Station will research, analyze, and design features, materials, and mechanisms focused on enhancing and redesigning exhibit space to improve the quality of visitor experience, as well as teach parents, program staff, and volunteers how to promote inquiry and engage in high quality discourse. The project will result in a replicable, scalable model with evaluation findings, videos, and professional development material to help other science centers enhance the STEM education of young children, especially those who are at risk.
The Field Museum of Natural History will lead a project to research, explore, develop, and implement thoughtful and forward-thinking practices for the ethical care of North American human remains currently under museum stewardship. Proposed activities include a symposium bringing together leaders from North American communities, museum professionals, and scientists to identify issues, discuss perspectives, and develop solutions; refining and implementing a standard of ethical care for human remains; and creating a web portal to disseminate sample inventory sheets, presentations, publications, examples of research and data-collection tools, and designs for boxes and other re-housing essentials. The project will promote improved stewardship of human remains in North America; create guidelines for respectful care of human remains; foster dialogue about scientific techniques; disseminate information to a broad community of collections-holding institutions, universities, descendent communities, and the public through online resources; and train students and recent graduates in scientific techniques, data collection, and appropriate procedures in human remains curation.
The Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (FAIC) will expand and enhance their existing web resource, "Connecting to Collections Care," a website focused on providing information, training, and support for those who care for collections in the United States. Key project components include online public forums on collection care issues; an expanded monthly webinar series; courses for topics requiring more in-depth exploration; and digital badges for program completion. The site will include links to resources that are curated and updated by experts, archives of webinars, courses, and material with improved search and retrieval capability. The project will benefit over 7,100 registered users as well as many more who use the site's tools to help care for collections. Surveys will inform continual improvements to the site's content and delivery.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art will address widespread collections care needs through a project that will develop a new test for the assessment of construction, storage, and display materials for use with organic objects. The environment in which objects are stored and displayed by institutions affects the condition and longevity of these objects. It is important that materials in direct contact with an object be adequately evaluated to ensure they will not be damaging; however, most museums, libraries, and archives do not have the resources necessary to perform such evaluations, and additionally, there is no accurate tool for assessing materials used with organic objects. Partnering with museums across the country, the Metropolitan Museum will develop and perform a test and publish the data online for use by collections care professionals, nationally and worldwide. Additionally, the museum will develop a collaborative online portal to gather suggestions and host conversations on topics such as future materials to be evaluated.
Montgomery Botanical Center, and its eight partners, will study and develop methods for effective conservation of U.S. living plants, piloting successful zoo strategies for use with plant collections. The project will address the need to 1) understand how effectively botanic gardens can conserve biodiversity and 2) coordinate management among isolated collections. The project will use current proven molecular tools to systematically compare genetic diversity between wild plant populations and corresponding living collections, among ten carefully selected species that will be used as predictive models for other collections. This project will improve conservation of genetic diversity in living plant collections, and will provide broadly usable guidelines for diverse plants to be used by a range of gardens and arboreta. Information will be disseminated through websites, tours, educational programming, conferences, publications, reports, and articles.