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CAISE NEWS RSS Feed

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    What can professional online communities contribute to learning, networking, and capacity building? How do we know that our online resources have impact on the field? And what insights are being gleaned from work so far of six NSF-funded professional development web sites? Those were among the questions explored during the May 2008 meeting of a CAISE Inquiry Group on Assessing Impacts of Informal Science Education (ISE) Professional Online Communities. UPCLOSE, the University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments, meeting organizer and host, has now documented the discussions in a rich website complete with slide presentations and interviews, available here.


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  • 05/22/09--12:25: ExhibitFiles
  • ExhibitFiles website

    ExhibitFiles is a community website for people who design and develop museum exhibitions. A project of the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC), the site was designed by multimedia company Ideum with the advice of exhibition designer Kathleen McLean and funding from the National Science Foundation (#0540261). The project's goal was to enable science exhibition developers to more readily learn from the work of others and to encourage them to open their own work to critical review.

    The concept is simple: Anyone interested in exhibition development can join ExhibitFiles. Members can create profiles, post case studies of exhibitions they have helped to develop and reviews of exhibitions they have visited, comment on others' posts, tag and "favorite" posts, and contact others through the site.


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  • 07/15/09--13:23: NestWatch
  • The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in collaboration with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, is engaging thousands of citizens in gathering data about nesting birds—helping researchers to better understand strategies birds use to reproduce successfully while building skills and understanding of the process of science and bird biology.


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    During the past two decades, an increasing number of informal science education projects have involved the public directly in the multifaceted and iterative processes of scientific research--covering topics ranging from acid rain to backyard birds. Such projects contribute to awareness and understanding of key scientific concepts and excel in building interest in scientific activities and developing science-related skills, the evidence suggests. That's the conclusion of a CAISE Inquiry Group that has just completed a study of Public Participation in Scientific Research (PPSR) programs, often called "citizen science."


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    In January 2007, with support from NSF, the Self Reliance Foundation (SRF) launched ConCiencia, the first Spanish-language science and health news service in the United States. ConCiencia/Hispanic Science Newswire now disseminates five to six original, research-based news stories each week to over 150 Spanish-language newspapers throughout the United States and in Latin America. ConCiencia’s two full-time journalists, Karina Flores (native of Peru) and Isabel Morales (native of Colombia), write original science news stories, typically 500-600 words in length and accompanied by photos or graphics. They contact original news sources, such as research scientists, and engage readers by focusing on science topics that are of great interest and relevance to Hispanics. In a recent week, ConCiencia stories profiled Cesar Ocampo, a Colombian astronaut; discussed the use of natural dyes to kill harmful bacteria; presented recent research on anthrax; discussed the aerodynamics of insect flight; and told about how Robert Carmoga, a musician from Colombia, uses music to present science at Maloka, the largest science center in Colombia.

    SRF developed ConCiencia after surveying U.S. Spanish-language newspapers and radio and finding few science stories. Hispanics, who are already 15% of the U.S. population, make up less than 2% of the nation’s STEM workforce.


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    Latinos are the largest ethnic/racial minority group in the United States, but Latino students score lower than national averages on math and science achievement tests, enroll at lower levels, and are underrepresented in undergraduate and graduate science and engineering programs. How to increase participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) among young Latinos was the subject of an NSF-funded conference held earlier this year by the Self Reliance Foundation (SRF).

    Expanding Informal Science Education to Latinos, held March 26-29, 2009, in Albuquerque, New Mexico (#0742157), was attended by more than 100 participants from informal science and science research institutions and representatives of Hispanic organizations, media, and educational programs. Together, they helped to lay groundwork for the development of strategic partnerships for involving Latino audiences in informal science learning.

    Among these partnerships is the Hispanic STEM Initiative, which will be launched September 14 in Washington, D.C. by the National Association for Hispanic Education (NAHE). Mike Acosta, a member of the Initiative's advisory committee and national president of the Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists, points to the "urgent importance" of this initiative, "given that less than 2% of the STEM workforce is Hispanic and almost 20% of the country's youth population is Hispanic."


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  • 10/08/09--12:26: CAISE Fellows 2008-09
  • The CAISE Fellows Program aims to broaden participation by and build capacity of professionals in informal science education (ISE) who are from underrepresented groups and underrepresented regions of the United States. During 2008-2009, the program was structured around mentoring and networking events that inform participants about grant proposal writing, grant administration, NSF and its ISE Program, and the development of innovative ISE programs and services.


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    How can informal science institutions respond to major and rapid changes in science and technology? The Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network, NISE Net, is a multi-year effort to do just that, by bringing to bear the resources and ingenuity of a large and growing network of science centers, museums, and other partners working with support from the National Science Foundation (#0532536) to increase public awareness and knowledge of nanoscale science and technology and engagement with related issues. In this issue, Larry Bell of the Museum of Science, Boston, Principal Investigator of NISE Net, recaps highlights of the network's recent annual meeting and offers insights about science communication relevant for others in informal science education.—WP


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    Nanotechnology: The Power of Small is a three-part television series that provides its audiences with an opportunity to examine the implications of nanotechnology for privacy, the environment, and human health. The series, which was produced with funding from the NSF Informal Science Education program (#0452371), began airing during NanoDays 2008, a week of community-based educational outreach programs about nanotechnology organized by the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISE Net).


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    Informal Scince Education Summit

    Washington, D.C. March 3-5, 2010

    The ISE Summit 2010 will bring together leaders from across the community to build a compelling picture of informal science education today--from the richly complex infrastructure that supports science learning outside of school, and policies that advance and limit those opportunities, to the nature of the learning that results in diverse settings across the lifespan.


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  • 10/28/09--07:08: Astronomy from the Ground Up
  • Astronomy from the Ground Up (AFGU) provides informal science educators at science and nature centers, museums, and other informal education venues with new ways to communicate astronomy content to their visitors. AFGU is a growing community of educators actively enhancing their capacity to address astronomy topics. The site was developed by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in collaboration with the Association of Science-Technology Centers and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, with funding from the National Science Foundation (#0451933).


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    Time and attention are fundamental to informal science learning. Beverly Serrell, evaluator and veteran observer of science centers and museums, public gardens, and aquariums, has analyzed studies of visitor behavior in more than 100 exhibitions. In an article titled "Paying More Attention to Paying Attention," she offers observations about the characteristics of what she calls “thoroughly used exhibitions.” As she notes, "Time spent paying attention is a prerequisite for learning, and studies have shown a positive relationship between the amount of time spent in an exhibition and learning (Borun et al., 1998)." Her observations are suggestive not only for designers of place-based science learning experiences, but for those who study learning across the informal science education field.


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    Informal science education is often seen as secondary or supplementary to formal education - even though the vast majority of our waking lives are spent outside of school. But "in fact, formal-informal collaborations fall exactly within the core activities of both schools and informal learning organizations, including museums, youth programs, and libraries." That's the conclusion of a CAISE Inquiry Group that recently completed its study of collaborations between formal and informal science education institutions. By taking advantage of "the particular affordances and strengths of different institutional types," the authors suggest, formal-informal collaborations can "meet shared goals of making science learning more accessible and compelling to young people in our communities."

    Led by Bronwyn Bevan of the Center for Informal Learning and Schools, the CAISE Inquiry Group began work during a July 2008 ISE Summit organized by CAISE. Their examination of what the authors call "the hybrid nature of formal-informal collaborations" draws on relevant theoretical perspectives and a series of case studies.

    Full Report (PDF 2.5MB)  |  Executive Summary (PDF 303KB)


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    People with disabilities all too often face barriers to full inclusion in informal science learning. In a world where knowledge of science and technology is critical to informed decision-making and a range of employment opportunities, exclusion from science learning can prevent full participation in society.

    Inclusion, Disabilities, and Informal Science Learning, a report by the CAISE Access Inquiry Group, sets forth a framework for changing this inequity. The group's investigations began in 2008, led by Christine Reich of the Museum of Science, Boston, in collaboration with Ellen Rubin (consultant and one-time advisor to the NSF-funded Accessible Museum Practices Program), Jeremy Price (formerly of CAST and the WGBH National Center for Accessible Media), and Mary Ann Steiner (now of the University of Pittsburgh, formerly head of the Youth Science Center at the Science Museum of Minnesota).

    The report offers a theoretical framework for thinking about inclusion of people with disabilities in informal science education (ISE), then reviews current practice in museums (broadly defined), in media and technology, and in youth and community programs. While "investigations located a number of projects, initiatives, and organizations that have sought greater inclusion of people with disabilities in ISE," the report concludes, "these efforts are still the exception and not the rule." At the same time, the report points to positive examples of inclusive ISE practices and programs and identifies opportunities for systemic change.


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    Nearly 450 people from across the informal science education field gathered in Washington, D.C., March 3-5, for the ISE Summit 2010. The program included a keynote address by Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of NOVA scienceNOW, and presentations by officials from federal agencies and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. There were reports from CAISE Inquiry Groups and other NSF-funded projects that are addressing issues critical to society and to the ISE field. And there were opportunities for robust discussion and emergence of proposals for future collaborative work. Extensive documentation captures the spirit and substance of the event and has been prepared as a resource for those who participated and others in the field.

     


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  • 04/12/10--15:47: Wild Music
  • The traveling exhibition Wild Music: Sounds & Songs of Life resulted from a partnership among the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC), the Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM), and the Music Research Institute at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, with funding from NSF (DRL-0407373). An exploration of the biological origins of the musical instinct, the exhibition began its national tour in 2007.

    It was important to the Wild Music team that an exhibition about the deep roots and universality of music be broadly accessible and offer a rich and positive sonic experience. Planning an exhibition about music and sound would be a challenge, they knew. But from the beginning, they approached this as an opportunity—in particular, an opportunity to enrich the experience for visitors who are blind or have low vision.


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    NSFThe National Science Foundation (NSF) issued a new solicitation May 21 for grant applications under its Informal Science Education (ISE) program. The NSF ISE program supports "innovation in anywhere, anytime, lifelong learning, through investments in research, development, infrastructure, and capacity-building for STEM learning outside formal school settings." It is part of NSF's Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings. The division's grant programs "are central to NSF’s strategic goals of Learning and Discovery, helping to cultivate a world-class, broadly inclusive STEM workforce, expanding the scientific literacy of all citizens, and promoting research that advances the frontiers of knowledge."

    NSF ISE solicitation  |  FAQs about the solicitation  |  Current grants


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    NSF's Informal Science Education (ISE) program is one of several grant programs in the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL). DRL is part of the Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR), which is also responsible for graduate and undergraduate education. NSF encourages those interested in the ISE grant program to become familiar with other DRL grant programs, which may also apply to their work.  

     


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  • 06/02/10--08:54: Listen
  • Listen: Making Sense of Sound was a project of the Exploratorium that made the act of attentive listening the primary entry point for interacting with a wide variety of natural and technological phenomena. Funded in 2003 by the National Science Foundation (DRL-0307925), the project departed from the San Francisco museum's traditional focus on the physics and physiology of sound. Instead, it made the information and aesthetic pleasure derived from engaging in attentive listening a new lens through which exhibit components and activities were realized. In addition to an exhibition and public programs, the project also resulted in a Listening traveling exhibition that is part of the Exploratorium's EXNET (Exploratorium Network for Exhibit-based Teaching) collection and a web site that includes listening activities and short online videos developed collaboratively with a cadre of "Listening Guides."


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    A June 2010 report from the Exploratorium's Learning and Youth Research and Evaluation Center (LYREC) highlights trends, questions, and findings related to out-of-school-time science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (OST STEM). Based on an October 2009 meeting, the report aims "to inform the work of OST educators, researchers, and funders." The report notes that "out-of-school-time programs such as summer camps,afterschool programs and Saturday classes provide students with important opportunities to "spark, sustain, and deepen their interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)"; develop and expand their understanding of STEM"; and "advance an awareness of and commitment to pursuing academic, career, and lifelong pathways in STEM-related fields."


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