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CAISE NEWS RSS Feed

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    The ISE PI Summit 2008 included five session types: Plenaries, Workshops, Discussion Groups, Project Showcase, and Project Pages.


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    Framework for Evaluating the Impacts of Informal Science Education Projects was the centerpiece of the sessions on the second day of the ISE PI Summit.


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    The ISE PI Summit 2008 gathered some of the top leaders and thinkers in the U.S., representing the diversity of informal science education. To leverage this opportunity, time for discussion group sessions were provided such that Summit participants could discuss, share, and innovate with others about (1) current and upcoming projects, as well as (2) how to move the field of informal science education forward. The list of discussion group topics were chosen based on the number of respondents on the 2008 ISE PI Survey (n=108) who offered to lead them.


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    Workshop sessions were designed to increase participants' evaluation expertise, share knowledge about visitor studies/informal learning research, and provide technical assistance related to administering NSF-funded grants. They were a mix of presentations, how-to, and hands-on formats.


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    Plenary sessions at the ISE PI Summit 2008 provided an opportunity for the community of NSF ISE PIs and other leaders to think about major issues that cut across the informal science education field.


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    There were 190 projects represented at the ISE PI Summit 2008. Projects are linked to project pages on InformalScience.org.


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    There were 251 attendees, of which 176 were representatives of NSF ISE funded projects. In addition to NSF, seven other federal agencies (CPB, DOE, IMLS, NASA, NIH, NOAA, NPS, Smithsonian) that support informal science education were also represented. Participant names are linked to member profiles on InformalScience.org.


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  • 11/20/08--01:00: ISE PI Summit 2008 - Agenda
  • The ISE PI Summit 2008 brought together NSF ISE PIs from across the country as well as other leaders in the field for two days of presentations and discussions about informal science education.


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  • 11/24/08--13:28: Fetch!
  • Fetch!FETCH! is a PBS show that features real kids, real challenges, real science, an animated host named Ruff Ruffman, and a cast of six "tweenage" contestants. Funded in large part by the National Science Foundation, the Emmy-winning series features kids as they pursue questions, conduct experiments, and actively investigate the world around them.


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    In the recent exhibition project Animal Secrets, the authors looked at the impact of three strategies for fostering parent-child interactions in an exhibition for young children: environmental design, types of activities, and labels. Results from the study indicate that all three strategies can support parent-child interactions, but environmental design and activity type were more effective than labels overall in promoting parent-child collaboration. Mixed results for exhibit labels suggest the need for further research into how best to communicate with parents of young children in an exhibition.


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    Learning in Places and Pursuits

    A highly anticipated report from the (U.S.) National Research Council (NRC), Learning Science in Informal Environments: Places, People, and Pursuits, is now available. According to the NRC, "tens of millions of Americans, young and old, choose to learn about science in informal ways - by visiting museums and aquariums, attending after-school programs, pursuing personal hobbies, and watching TV documentaries, for example. There is abundant evidence that these programs and settings, and even everyday experiences such as a walk in the park, contribute to people's knowledge and interest in science."


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    Older adults in assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and senior community centers are the target audience for Senior Environmental Experiences (SEE), a program funded by the National Science Foundation (#0407280) to enhance science learning and exploration of critical environmental issues among this growing segment of the population.


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    Measure a Finch BeakComplex ideas like evolution-which run counter to common, but mistaken, intuitive knowledge are challenging, both for exhibit developers and for the evaluation and research teams who assess the impact of exhibitions. It is always difficult to document measurable changes in deep conceptual understanding following a single visit to an exhibition (Allen, 2008, p. 58); Is this even possible with complex topics, such as evolution?


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    Public Engagement with Science Diagram Is nanotechnology safe? How should we respond to the possibility of catastrophic global climate change? Faced with profound personal and societal questions like these, we need the best scientific knowledge available. We also need opportunities for scientists, decision makers, and the public to exchange knowledge and perspectives “in a way that fosters responsible and appropriate scientific knowledge production and decision making"--and the informal science education sector is well positioned to help. That's the conclusion of a CAISE Inquiry group that over the past year has been studying public engagement with science in informal media like television, museums, and science cafes.

    Full Report (PDF 3MB)  |  Executive Summary (PDF 472KB)


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    Photo by Ben Wiehe

    NOVA scienceNOW Science Cafés are an outreach program of a science news and magazine television series produced by WGBH, Boston, funded in part by NSF’s Informal Science Education program (#0638931). The series, which began airing in January 2005, aims to increase public awareness and understanding of cutting-edge science, while the related Science Cafés go further, aiming to engage a broad and diverse public in dialogue with scientists in casual, non-academic settings like pubs and cafés. Evaluations are showing that the program is succeeding in attracting the young adults who are its primary target audience and even helping to catalyze and connect more grassroots cafés across the United States.

    In planning its NOVA scienceNOW Science Cafés, WGBH was inspired by the Café Scientifique movement that began in the United Kingdom in the late 1990s. Initial experiments proved encouraging. Events drew large numbers of young adults (aged 18-35) and also female participants, few of whom had watched the television series NOVA. When WGBH proposed the new television series, the Science Café was built in as a major outreach initiative.


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  • 04/13/09--16:12: Cyberchase
  • CyberchaseThe Emmy Award-winning series CYBERCHASE is the only mathematics series for children on American television. Designed for kids ages 8 to 12 and packed with mystery, humor, and action, each episode delivers positive messages about math by teaching concepts in a fun way that kids can understand.


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  • 04/13/09--16:15: Plants Are Up To Something
  • Plants Are Up To Something“Plants Are Up To Something” at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens stands out as an example of how an exhibition can provide extraordinary experiences. Smart interactive stations give elementary schoolchildren an opportunity to use scientific apparatuses to explore in a fun and safe atmosphere.


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  • 04/13/09--17:00: WolfQuest
  • WolfquestWolfQuest, designed by the Minnesota Zoo and eduweb, promotes gameplay and intense social interactions among youth (ages 10–18) who are not normally attentive to ecological concepts and conservation issues. The game, developed with funding from NSF (DRL-0610427), seeks to illuminate ecological principles, such as predator-prey relationships, as well as develop learners’ problem-solving skills.


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    The St. Louis Science Center, in collaboration with the City College of New York and the Science Museum of Minnesota, are combining their considerable expertise with youth programs to create new opportunities for after-school STEM learning.


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