International Conference: The Integration of Science Centres with Natural History Museums for Imparting Informal Education
Supporting and sustaining public science literacy and engagement are important goals of informal science education institutions worldwide. Although there is evidence that both science centers and natural history museums positively influence public science literacy and engagement, significant differences exist between these two types of institutions. This international workshop on Integration of Science Centers with Natural History Museums for Imparting Informal Education addresses this issue by convening key science center and natural history museum professionals from 9 countries in South and Southeast Asia, as well as the United States, to explore the strengths and limitations of the assets, philosophies and strategies of these institutions. Beyond the benefits science center and natural history museum professionals attending will receive, the effort will significantly contribute to the broader US and international conversation about the future of science centers and natural history museums, as well as other museum-like, science-rich informal education institutions, in these regions and beyond. In particular, supporting personal and cultural relevance has been a major focus of informal science education organizations globally, and the recommendations that emerge from the meeting will significantly contribute to this dialogue and help to make advances in the disciplinary field of informal science education.
This international workshop, hosted in Malaysia and facilitated by researchers from the Institute for Learning Innovation, convenes 40 science center and natural history museum professionals to explore the affordances and constraints of science centers and natural history museum exhibitions, programs, outreach efforts, websites, etc. The conference is designed to examine the opportunities, challenges and barriers to integrating key design principles that blend the best of science centers and natural history museums, while guiding the creation of new forms of 21st century informal science education institutions. Additional goals explore how to make informal science education institutions in general more relevant to 21st century publics, both culturally and personally, as well as foster intra- and international collaborations between science center and natural history museum professionals. Toward these ends, all conference participants will commit to the completion of pre-conference assignments; active preparation and involvement at the meeting; and, assistance with the dissemination of project findings. The major deliverable will be a Whitepaper describing the outcomes of the meeting and the key design principles that leverage the effectiveness and relevance of each of these institutions. The Whitepaper will be produced in both hard copy and electronic form and more broadly disseminated throughout the natural history museum and science center fields in all participating countries. The electronic form will be hosted and available for download through the website of the Institute for Learning Innovation and the Center for Advancing Informal Science Education (CAISE) with links to all participating institutions. This project is supported jointly by the NSF Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) and the Advances in Informal STEM Education (AISL) program.