Sustainability: Promoting Sustainable Decision Making in Informal Education
The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) will partner with the City of Portland's Office of Sustainable Development, Metro Regional Government, Portland Community College, Verde, and the Coalition for a Livable Future, to create a series of informal science education experiences on the theme of Sustainability. For this project, sustainability is defined in terms of a triple bottom line of economic, social, and environmental needs. The project responds to calls for broad environmental education of the public in response to environmental crises (such as climate change), and specific research suggesting that even museums that do provide information about such issues rarely help their visitors learn to make the comparisons necessary to make more sustainable choices. For the public audience, the project team will create a 1,500 sq. ft. bilingual (Spanish/English) exhibition to encourage the public to develop skills in making personal choices that affect the sustainability of their community. They will also create 25-40 bilingual cell phone tags that will provide listeners who dial the phone numbers with information, personal perspectives, current STEM research, invitations to contribute ideas or vote on issues, interactive phone-based activities, and links to websites, all in service of helping them make intentional and informed personal decisions on sustainability. The cell phone tags will be located at approximately 100 locations in the Portland area, including predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods, public transit locations, public works, and community projects. The team will also create a bilingual website and will offer quarterly bilingual events at the museum on the topic of sustainable living. For the professional audience, the team will create a set of tools and indicators for assessing the sustainability of exhibit-development processes, using the triple bottom line of financial, environmental, and social impacts. For example, a Green Exhibit Guide will provide resources and a checklist for exhibit development projects, and will propose field-wide standards analogous to the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system for green buildings. Regional workshops will engage exhibit developers, designers, fabricators, and administrators in using the tools in their own institutions. The project will create a coordinated set of resources to inform the public about the science of sustainability and to engage them in making informed choices in their daily lives, both in the museum and beyond. The topic of sustainability is timely and important, and the use of cell phones as a mobile technology linked to web resources and an exhibition constitute an innovative synergy of media to create impacts on a city-wide scale. The project serves underrepresented Hispanic audiences through its creation of bilingual materials, placement of cell phone tags, and community involvement in the development process. Finally, the project advances the ISE field in proposing and broadly disseminating a set of standards for green exhibit design, along with developing resources and tools for assessing sustainability. Created in collaboration with other organizations, this work has the potential to reduce the environmental impact of museums while providing highly visible examples of sustainable practices for visitors.
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