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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.

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

2020 Invent It Challenge

Credit: Cricket Media, Inc.

The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation and Cricket Media have partnered for the past nine years to bring the Spark!Lab Invent It Challenge to students across the globe. The challenge is a free, STEM-focused contest open to students ages 5-18 that inspires them to solve real-world global issues through creativity and exploration. Smithsonian Affiliates are invited to share this opportunity with their visitors and incorporate it into Affiliate programming!

Here are some easy ways to promote the Challenge to your visitors or use in your own programming:
  • Use this flyer to spread the word about the 2020 Invent It Challenge to your visitors, school groups, and teachers.
  • Post this image across your social media outlets to inform your audience of the wonderful opportunity the Challenge presents for students to use their creativity and knowledge of science to make a positive impact on the world around them.
  • Introduce students to the 7-Step Invention Process using this introduction video and challenge them to think of how it can be applied to help create a solution to a wide variety of local, regional, or global issues.
  • Set up a whiteboard and have students play this interactive game from Smithsonian called “Pick Your Plate” to stimulate conversation around healthy food and how people across the globe might access it.
  • Show this inspirational video for possible ways to help solve the global issue of accessing healthy food and hold a question and answer session with students to get them thinking about what they could invent to address this issue.
Want to learn more about how the 2020 Invent It Challenge aligns with your programming, and what resources are available to you to promote it? Join our webinar on January 22nd, 2020, from 2-3 pm (EST)! Featured presenters include:
  • Sharon Klotz, Head of Invention Education at the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation
  • Laura Woodside, Senior Vice President of Education Products at Cricket Media, Inc.
  • Patricia Genovese, Teacher of Past Winners from California

RSVP for the webinar!

About the Invent It Challenge
Each year, the Lemelson Center and Cricket Media develop a theme related to an important global issue. By choosing themes that address significant global issues, the Invent It Challenge allows students to realize they can make an important difference in their world by applying their skills, knowledge, and creativity to come up with solutions to the challenges people around the world face daily. The 2020 theme focuses on what students can invent to help improve people’s access to healthy food. The fact that approximately 25% of the world’s 7.8 billion people struggle to access safe, nutritious food illustrates the importance and global nature of this issue.

Credit: Cricket Media, Inc.

To submit an entry, students have to follow the Lemelson Center’s 7-Step Invention Process and document their progress through each step in a PowerPoint or video. To help them get started, students should review the Entry Guide, which includes everything they’ll need:

  • A list of Topics and Resources to help them generate ideas,
  • an Inventor’s Notebook to help them keep track of their progress through the seven steps,
  • and a Rubric to help them self-assess.
When students are ready, they can use this PowerPoint template to document their journey, or they can create their own presentations or videos. Judges at the Lemelson Center and Cricket Media evaluate each entry according to how deeply students engage with each step and how well they document their journey. In addition to great prizes from Faber Castell, Cricket Media, and others, students can win a multi-day trip to Washington, D.C. where their inventions get permanently displayed at the Spark!Lab! Entries are due by 11:59 pm (EST) on April 10, 2020.

Questions before the webinar? Email affiliates@si.edu.

Credit: Cricket Media, Inc.