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Smithsonian Affiliations at 25: Chapter 3: 10 Years of Reaching for the Stars Together

Affiliations Anniversary Series: 25 Years in Your Neighborhood
Chapter 3: 10 Years of Reaching for the Stars Together

By: Tricia Edwards, Deputy Director, Smithsonian Affiliations and Natalie Wimberly, Management Support Specialist and Universe of Learning Project Manager, Smithsonian Affiliations

A young boy crouches in front of a telescope next to an adult in a bright green shirt seated next to him.

Student astrophotographer at Carolinas Aviation Museum (Charlotte, NC). Photo credit: Carolinas Aviation Museum.

“Working with Affiliations over the last 10 years has been one of the most productive collaborations for our Science Education Department,” says Mary Dussault, a STEM education program director at Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Cambridge, MA. Since 2012, with generous support from the Smithsonian’s Youth Access Grant program (YAG), Smithsonian Affiliations and Affiliates have collaborated with SAO to bring astronomy and astrophotography education to their communities through the Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos program (YCCC). Dussault adds, “Right from the get-go, we realized that the educational goals of the YAG program, the strategic partnership capacity and national network of Smithsonian Affiliations, and the scalable and accessible technology resources of SAO’s MicroObservatory Robotic Telescope Network were a case of the stars aligning.”

YCCC introduces communities, especially students, to the wonders of the universe. Participants can access SAO’s robotic telescopes, take images of the cosmos, and manipulate the photographs to produce their own artistic and scientific interpretations of the stars and galaxies. Along the way, they gain important technology skills and engage in—and apply—science, technology, engineering, art, and math content. As one young participant said, “I loved editing the photos. It grew my imagination and made me want to do more with it.”

A black and white image of the moon is pictured to the left of a brightly colored red, green, yellow and blue interpretation of the moon on right.

Photo captured by the MicroObservatory robotic telescope (left) alongside a student’s interpretation of the image.

Many Affiliates have participated in the program for multiple years and used YCCC to reach new audiences or forge deeper partnerships with existing collaborators. One Affiliate commented, “As a direct result of implementing the program we have already begun discussions with [our local] high school to develop a more intense astronomy program for next year.”

Since 2012, YCCC has grown to include 29 Smithsonian Affiliates and has reached more than 7,000 participants across the nation.

“Each Affiliate brings particular expertise and knowledge of their local community to adapting our SAO resources and materials, thereby creating wonderful program models that we never would have anticipated on our own,” says Erika Wright, SAO Education Specialist. For example, arts educator Annette Eschelman from the Springfield Museum of Art (Springfield, OH) was able to combine visual arts and astronomical imaging techniques to engage incarcerated youth. Starr Kelly from the Abbe Museum (Bar Harbor, ME) developed a summer camp program in which indigenous knowledge of the Wabanaki Nations informed the experience of students in the local Indian Township School.

Pieces of the Astronomy Kit rest on a table

Astronomy Kit for virtual NASA UoL 2020 Programming at Cape Fear Museum (Wilmington, NC). Photo credit: Cape Fear Museum

The successful collaboration model itself has also expanded, as SAO and Affiliations have teamed up to pursue a number of other astronomy-based education programs funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA. NASA’s Universe of Learning (NASA’s UoL), for example, connects the science, technology, subject matter experts, and adventure of NASA Astrophysics with STEM concepts, education standards, and 21st century skills central to science understanding and literacy. Resulting products, programs, and professional development experiences span a spectrum of environments and applications, enabling a rich learning “ecosystem” across the traditional boundaries of education. The goal of the program is to create and disseminate education products, programs, and professional development experiences that use NASA Astrophysics science, technology, and subject matter experts to advance NASA’s Science Mission Directorate education objectives on a national scale.

In partnership with Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, 15 Smithsonian Affiliate partners, over the course of 3 years, were identified to join the national network of collaborators for this project. The majority of the Affiliates who participated were already building on the long-term partnerships and successful implementations of the Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos program. Growing from these past project relationships, NASA’s UoL is able to extend its reach through Affiliates and the communities they serve.

“We have great content that we’ll share in our virtual portfolio and will gladly share with any other organization that can make use of it. I also hope to do other projects with Universe of Learning when possible.” Nathan Meyer, Cosmosphere, Hutchinson, KS

NASA’s UoL project asks 3 main questions: How does the Universe work? How did we get here? Are we alone? The project creates and delivers science and audience-driven resources along with experiences designed to engage and immerse learners of all ages and backgrounds in exploring the universe for themselves. Its main goal is to expose astrophysics content to a wider underserved audience as well as create a Community of Practice within the Affiliate partners to document, share, and discuss ideas about how this information could translate into their own institutions.

Astronomy resources are placed on a table at the Anchorage Museum

NASA’s UoL Science of Light Program at Anchorage Museum (Anchorage, AK). Photo credit: Anchorage Museum.

“Students wanted to spend more time doing these activities and engaging with astronomy related STEM resources. For some of the students, it was their first time in a planetarium, and being able to go there twice was their favorite part of the program. Others really enjoyed learning about the MicroObservatory resource and said they would continue using it on their own.” Aaron Slonecker, Anchorage Museum, Anchorage, AK

Within the 3-year program period, our Affiliate partners have created long-term NASA UoL community programs and are actively still engaged with Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to help broaden the scope and reach of NASA’s UoL future programming.

Through both YCCC and NASA’s UoL, Affiliates have helped to broaden access to SAO resources and magnify the reach of their expertise, all while engaging young learners in their communities in astronomy. Affiliates have also built their capacity. They have bolstered their astronomy knowledge and expertise, while also learning how to implement public workshops and programs for audiences of all ages. They have created a community of learners through online discussions and webinars, brainstormed programming ideas, and learned with and from one another.

Later this year, Smithsonian Affiliations and SAO will debut the Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos toolkit, developed in collaboration with the Abbe Museum, Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum (Honolulu, HI), and Springfield Museum of Art. The toolkit will provide how-to instructions for accessing the MicroObservatory, along with successful YCCC program models implemented by Affiliates with different audiences and in different settings, enabling even more Affiliates and their communities to explore the wonders of the cosmos. We also look forward to rolling out the Observing with NASA program soon. Affiliates will have the opportunity to apply to host Observing with NASA kiosks that allow public audiences to request their own telescope images and to practice image processing skills. Stay tuned for more details on these two exciting projects!

Stay tuned next month for another chapter in our 25th Anniversary Series! Until then, catch up on stories you’ve missed:

June 2021 Kudos!

Kudos Affiliates!! June 2021

Congratulations to these Affiliates on their recent accomplishments! Do you have kudos to share? Please send potential entries to Aaron Glavas, GlavasC@si.edu.

FUNDING

The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium (Dubuque, IA) and its national outreach program RiverWorks Discovery, received a combined $200,000 from three foundations to support a new RiverWorks Discovery national traveling exhibit. The Walton Family Foundation awarded $100,000, with American Electric Power (AEP) Foundation and the Eugenie and Joseph Jones Family Foundation awarding $50,000 each. Grants will support the design and development of a new hands-on, educational exhibit designed to educate the public on the importance of the commerce, culture, conservation, and careers of America’s inland waterways.

The Adler Planetarium (Chicago, IL) is collaborating with Empirical Brewing to help raise money for science education. Empirical Brewing will brew a series of beers in collaboration with the Adler planetarium, called “Space for Everyone.” 25% of all sales will support digital programming, including a science-comedy show called Wow Signal on Adler’s YouTube channel.

Cape Fear Museum of History and Science (Wilmington, NC) has been selected by the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) as a recipient of an IF/THEN® Gender Equity Grant for $8,600. The IF/THEN® Gender Equity Grant program offers science centers the opportunity to launch projects that increase the representation of women and gender minorities in STEM, as part of the broader efforts to advance diversity, accessibility, inclusion, and equity.

AWARDS & RECOGNITION

The Institute of Museum and Library Services announced the High Desert Museum (Bend, OR) was one of 6 recipients of the 2021 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor given to libraries and museums that make significant and exceptional contributions to their communities.

USA Today announced their 10Best Museums of 2021. The winners included the following Affiliates in their respective categories and place:

Best Pop Culture Museum

1.Birthplace of Country Music Museum (Bristol, Virginia)

Best Science Museum

3. Tellus Science Museum (Cartersville, GA)
5. Michigan Science Center (Detroit, MI)
6. Denver Museum of Nature & Science (Denver, CO)
8. Perot Museum of Nature and Science (Dallas, TX)
9. Fort Worth Museum of Science and History (Fort Worth, TX)
10. Saint Louis Science Center (St. Louis, MO)

Best Art Museum

1. Booth Western Art Museum (Cartersville, GA)
2. Heard Museum (Phoenix, AZ)

Best History Museum

2. National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati, Ohio)
5. USS Constitution Museum (Boston, MA)
6. Museum of History & Industry (Seattle, WA)
7. National WWII Museum (New Orleans, LA)

The North Carolina Museums Council honored the Greensboro History Museum (Greensboro, NC) with a 2020 Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion Award for its History Happening Now initiative and the Pieces of Now exhibition. The Museum developed its History Happening Now initiative last spring to focus efforts on collecting people’s stories, experiences, and feelings about the upheavals of 2020. The initiative led to the creation of the exhibition Pieces of Now: Murals, Masks, Community Stories and Conversations, featuring more than 20 pieces of street art created as part of 2021’s Black Lives Matter protests, along with photos, objects, and video interviews with artists and organizers.

LEADERSHIP

Van Romans, president of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History (Fort Worth, TX), is retiring after more than 15 years leading the institution. Kippen de Alba Chu, the current chief of staff, will serve as the interim president while the museum looks for Romans’ replacement.

Smithsonian Affiliations at 25: Chapter 2- National Youth Summits

Affiliations Anniversary Series: 25 Years in Your Neighborhood
Chapter 2: National Youth Summits

Catch up on Chapter 1: The Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion here.

The late John Lewis seated next to filmmaker Stanley Nelson on stage at the National Youth Summit

The Late Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) and filmmaker Stanley Nelson at the 2011 National Youth Summit on Freedom Rides. Photo courtesy National Museum of American History.

Engaging younger audiences has always been a goal of the Affiliate network. As an ongoing reflection of the past 25 years of working with our Affiliates, this month we focus on the role of the National Youth Summit and the regional youth conversations produced by Affiliates to complement and amplify the Smithsonian’s national program.

In 2010, Smithsonian Affiliations met with colleagues at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History on a concept for a new program— one in which students confront enduring questions of power, representation, privilege, and choice through peer-to-peer discussions, individual reflections, and shared action planning. The National Youth Summit would take place at the National Museum of American History, while Affiliates would host regional youth summits to amplify and augment the national program, allowing middle and high school students in Affiliate communities to discuss local issues.

With the assistance of five Affiliate museums, the first National Youth Summit launched on February 9, 2011, and commemorated the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Freedom Rides. The Summit featured Freedom Ride veterans and scholars discussing civic activism and the history of the Freedom Rides. Since that original program, there have been seven Youth Summits with Affiliate collaboration, with topics ranging from women’s suffrage to systemic racism, Japanese American incarceration to the war on poverty, and featured speakers like the late Congressman John Lewis-(D-GA) and documentarian Ken Burns.

five people sit on a stage in an auditorium filled with young people

National Youth Summit at the Japanese American National Museum. Photo courtesy JANM.

The topics are national, but the impact is local. Affiliates exemplify this with customized programs for local students—programs that reflect the demographics and lived experiences of youth in their community and center the community’s history through museum programming and interpretation. Over the past decade, the regional summits have reached thousands of young people and inspired numerous discussions about important events in America’s past that have relevance to the nation’s present and future.

Auditoriam at the birmingham civil rights institute

National Youth Summit at Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Photo courtesy Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

The National Youth Summit with Affiliate regional conversations continues to grow and play a vital role. By extending the reach to schools who might otherwise not be able to participate, by expanding historical content available through the program, and by creating deeply meaningful learning that relates to the actual lived experiences of students in underrepresented communities, Affiliates continue to show why they are critical venues for a national conversation.

An eighth Youth Summit is in the works for Fall 2021. Until then, catch up on past programs and conversation kits on the National Youth Summit website.

Stay tuned next month for Chapter 3: 10 Years of Reaching for the Stars Together, in our 25th anniversary series.

New Benefit: Smithsonian Voices

We want to help share your story! Smithsonian Voices is a blog on Smithsonianmag.com, the online version of Smithsonian magazine. Millions of visitors browse the content online per month and learn about science, history, art, popular culture, and innovation. The blog shares the unique voices that make up the Institution and now will include our Affiliate partners. A new blog—Smithsonian Affiliations Voices—is in development specifically for our Affiliate partners.

Smithsonian Affiliates are currently the only organizations outside of the Smithsonian invited to join the hundreds of scholars, researchers, and curators telling stories about their work. Smithsonian Voices content doesn’t have to have a Smithsonian connection—although having one is encouraged. Here, we want to provide a platform for our Affiliates and feature the incredible work they are doing every day, how they are engaging their communities, and demonstrate the importance of our Affiliate network in reaching broader and more diverse audiences.

As we finish developing the page, we invite our Affiliate partners to submit story ideas to be be featured on our page. Visit  the Smithsonian Voices blog page to get ideas and see how other Smithsonian units are telling stories.

Are you interested in sharing a story on our Smithsonian Affiliate Voices page? Contact Elizabeth Bugbee for guidelines and more information- BugbeeE@si.edu. 

Wiki + Affiliates Part III: Nuts and Bolts of an edit-a-thon

KellyDoyle [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Since October 2019, we have been working with Smithsonian Affiliates to learn how Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons can help raise awareness of underrepresented women in American history. With the help of the Smithsonian’s Open Knowledge Coordinator, Kelly Doyle, and in conjunction with the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative (AWHI), we’ve hosted two webinars introducing the platform and how our Affiliates can contribute content. Together, we aim to illuminate women’s pivotal roles in building and sustaining our country.

In our third webinar, we’ll take all we’ve learned and focus on the nuts and bolts of planning and hosting a Wikipedia edit-a-thon at your organization. We know there are incredible women represented in Affiliate collections and we want to help give you the resources and skills to share their stories on Wikipedia and connect with your local community in a new way.

RSVP to join us on Thursday, February 27 at 3 PM Eastern and learn how to gather together editors of all skill levels around American women’s history. During the webinar, you’ll learn:

  • How to structure and organize your event
  • Best practices
  • Tips and tricks

Fuzheado [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Looking to jump ahead and do some reading before the webinar? Kelly has compiled a few resources to help you understand what an edit-a-thon involves:

And catch up by reading these blogs:
Wiki + Affiliates: Help Represent the Under-Represented!
Wiki + Affiliates Part II: Wikimedia Commons and Image Releases

We hope you can join us on February 27 and learn more! RSVP here.

SAVE THE DATE! We’re excited to announce that we will be co-hosting an edit-a-thon on Sunday, June 28, 2020 from 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM at the National Museum of the American Indian to kick off our Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference. Kelly and Wikimedia District of Columbia will be on hand to help everyone add content!

Questions? Comments? Contact us!

ProtoplasmaKid [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

National Museum of Natural History Lineage Workshop

Credit: National Museum of Natural History

Announcing an exciting post-conference opportunity for Affiliate educators on Wednesday, July 1, 2020! Immediately following the Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) is offering an Affiliate-exclusive day-long, hands-on professional development workshop and discussion exploring fossil-based science content and informal learning opportunities, such as “challenging conversations” and co-learning among family members. Selected participants will receive funding to offset lodging and other costs associated with participation.

This special workshop is part of a National Science Foundation-supported project called Lineage, a comprehensive educational media and outreach initiative designed to increase public understanding about the history of life on Earth and the relevance of that history to our present and future. The Lineage team is comprised of NMNH, Twin Cities Public Television, Schell Games, and the Institute for Learning Innovation.

Lineage activities, content, and materials are designed for use in informal learning spaces such as museums, libraries, and parks, as well as schools. This one-day workshop at NMNH will introduce Affiliate educators to the activities and equip them to access the content and materials for use in their own museums and communities.

Click here to apply

Credit: National Museum of Natural History

During the one-day workshop, the Project Team will share:

  • Best practices on creating and facilitating STEM-focused family learning experiences,
  • Demonstrate the Lineage project’s fossil-based activities as examples,
  • Share results of the project’s important research effort.

Lineage materials (including files to make 3D prints) will be available online for free beginning in April.

Museum educators hoping to launch or expand public programs with fossil-based collections; museum staff interested in deepening conversations with the public around evolution and adaptation, and any mid-career informal education professionals interested in developing and implementing family-based learning programs are encouraged to apply.

Apply today to extend your conference experience and expand your STEM learning toolkit! Contact Nicole Bryner at brynern@si.edu with any questions.

Apply here!

 

Credit: National Museum of Natural History