Friday, February 18, 2011

When was the last time you visited a science center or museum?

I'm in Washington, DC now.  I'm in town for the AAAS (Science Magazine) conference.  I love science conferences and I love this gathering in particular.  It's the world's largest science conference and an inter-disciplinary mix of scientists, social scientists, engineers, educators and science-tech policy makers .  The energy is amazing.  Nerd heaven, I say. Nerd heaven, indeed.

And on February 16 and 17, 2011, I attended the first ever International Public Science Events Conference, a pre-conference gathering of outreach scientists, science educators (formal & informal) and related institutions.  We shared ideas, successes, and challenges to promoting science and engineering to the general public - you - via small and large events and celebrations.  I co-moderated a workshop on Broadening Participation with the incomparable and kindred Madhu Katti of Reconciliation Ecology

Me with Madhu Katti
We focused on ways science event planners could attract audiences beyond the 'usual suspects' which are white or Asian middle-class families from suburbia, with one or both parents college educated.  In what ways can science events be marketed so that they experience increased participation from families of color, or new citizen families, or working-class families, families from the inner city or deep rural parts of their respective states, or make them enjoyable for people who aren't 12 years old or younger?

All the conference participants shared ways to make our science meet-ups,science cafes, science cabarets, and science events more accessible and engaging.  That was the objective of the entire pre-conference. Then as I listening to Dr. Dennis Wint, President and CEO of The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA, discuss how and why science centers/museums matter in public engagement, I began to wonder...How important is science and math education to people who aren't in the business of science or math education.  I mean, yeah, I know you think it's important, but how would you articulate that to another parent or community member?
Me with Dr. Wint of the Franklin Institute

Then Dr. Wint touched on how science centers/museums are a great science educational resource, sometimes the best thing going if your school system is slashing and burning education in science, math, and arts - like many are. I agree, and I wondered how many people are taking advantage of these continuing education centers?
So I did my own social media poll. When's the last time you, your friends/family visited a science center or museum? Which one? What city?  Folk responded on twitter using the hashtag

I got about 20 responses.  Most people attended fairly recently (within the last few months, I assume spending family time over the holiday). Here's a summary of responses.
  • MIT Museum for opening of MIT150 exhibit
  • Ontario Science Center in Toronto
  • Franklin Institute in Philadelphia!
  • American Museum of Natural History in NYC x2
  • Science Centers of San Jose, Philadelphia and Cleveland
  • Science Museum & Childrens Museum of Atlanta
  • Hong Kong Science Museum for the exhibition "Marvelous Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci"
  • Liberty Science Center Jersey City, NJ
  • Discovery Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • National Space Center Leics, UK. 
  • Science Museum, London x2
  • Natural History Museum, London x2
  • North Carolin Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh-Durham 
  • Museum of Life + Science in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
  • Fels Planetarium (Part of the Franklin Institute, so it gets another tally)
  • St. Louis Science Center x4 (my backyard)
  • McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center Concord NH
  • Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in DC
  • The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago
  • in Wilmington, NC (they have a giant ground sloth skeleton)
  • Taupo Vocano Centre in New Zealand
  • Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago

also got some Zoo/Aquarium/Botanical Garden responses, too

What about you?  When's the last time you visited a science center, what city?


Kate said...

well, if we're counting zoos, aquariums and gardens... I go just about every day.

I haven't been to the museum as often as I'd like, and I think my membership to an ASTC facility has lapsed... something that hasn't happened in over a decade.

I definitely have to get back to our natural history museum soon!

Jen said...

We had my son's 7th birthday (along with 3 friends) at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. We go probably once every couple of months in the winter and much more rarely in the (gorgeous but terribly brief) summer. Also went to the Woodland Park Zoo (Seattle) over the winter break. We probably visit about 3-4 times/year. Last spring we went to the University of Washington Arboretum for the first time.

We went to the University of Washington's Burke Museum's celebration of the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. If we're counting science-oriented visitor centers, last summer we visited the Mt. St. Helens visitor center (unbelievably awesome) and the Lassen Volcanic National Park visitor center (a bit older and less well funded but still interesting). My son really loves volcanoes!

But we fit squarely into the demographic you referenced -- middle-class white parents with advanced degrees.

Sheela S said...

It was quite a long time for me. Thanks for you reminder. Science Centers should have program to attract more diversified cultural audience.

Dan Satterfield said...

I am on the board of our local museum here in Huntsville called Sci-quest.

You make a very good point and I will share your post with the board!

carol said...

It's been a month now since i visited the antique medical equipment museum..

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