Snow: Museum Exhibit, Educational Outreach, and Learning Research
With snow providing water for about 2 billion people worldwide and playing a major role in the Earth's climate through its high albedo and insulation properties, on-going alterations in global snow resources pose real and extremely expensive societal adaptation/mitigation problems. The project goals are to:
- Create opportunities for the public to learn about the vital role that snow plays in climate, water resources, and human lives.
- Produce a better understanding of how culture affects informal Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) learning.
The deliverables include:
- An outreach program in Alaska that will visit 33 remote native villages;
- A 2,000 square foot traveling exhibition on snow produced by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) and exhibited at two additional museums during the life of the award;
- Learning research, which will examine how the wide variation of cultural relationships to snow impacts learning in museum exhibitions. Each of these components will be evaluated over the course of the project. The travelling exhibition will tour to three museums per year for eight years, with an anticipated cumulative audience of over one million.
The focus on snow will highlight a fascinating yet under-appreciated part of the Earth system. The project aims to educate the public about snow and to produce a more informed and thoughtful public in the face of potential expensive and difficult snow-related societal decisions. Through informative displays, graphics, models, and other material, the project will engage traditionally under-served communities (at Native/remote villages) in Alaska, where a strong cultural connection to snow exists, as well as communities across the U.S. where the connection to snow can range from strong to weak. Across this cultural gradient, the project will explore through oral interviews and surveys the public response to various types and designs of informal science learning (ISL) displays, attempting to isolate and control for the effect of cultural vs. individual response to the materials. Informal learning theory specifies using front-end exploration of individual visitor-content relationships to guide exhibit design. This project's research goal expands that approach to include the effects of cultural engagement with a topic to develop more general tools to guide and improve the design process. The project is led by the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in collaboration with OMSI researchers from the COSI (Center of Science and Industry), Center for Research and Evaluation (CRE), and evaluators at the Goldstream Group. This project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants. The project has co-funding support from the Office of Polar Programs.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.