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Project Descriptions

Explore the Science of Spring: A Live Media Event

September 1, 2018 - August 31, 2020 | Media and Technology, Public Programs
Explore the Science of Spring: A Live Media Event is an Innovations in Development project produced by the signature PBS series Nature. The new primetime series Spring LIVE (working title) will break the frame of a traditional documentary, letting viewers themselves explore the dramatic seasonal changes of spring through the immediacy of live television. On-camera hosts, scientists and naturalists in locations across the U.S., and scores of citizen scientists will use observation and scientific inquiry to explore the workings of nature during this season of rebirth. The unfolding stories of seasonal change will illuminate larger scientific insights--into the biodiversity of species in habitats, the interconnectedness of plants and animals in diverse ecosystems, the global phenomenon of species migration, and how spring "green-up" can be affected by environmental change--while inspiring appreciation for species conservation and habitat preservation. Spring LIVE is conceived as an ongoing series, with this inaugural season composed of three one-hour programs broadcast live on three consecutive nights, along with real-time interactions via Facebook. Reaching long-standing Nature viewers (2.5 million per episode), Spring LIVE will seek to turn mature adults and diverse families into citizen science doers, and leverage younger Nature online audiences through social media and community engagement in partnership with citizen science projects. Spring LIVE will build public knowledge of and engagement in phenology and citizen science. The project will also conduct knowledge-building research on the effectiveness of Facebook as a science learning tool. It will experiment with eliciting audience participation via Facebook within the live shows to generate synchronous, second-screen thought and discussion. An exploratory study by Multimedia Research will look at the impact of this feature, addressing the question: To what extent and how does Facebook interactivity within live science shows impact adult engagement, learning and motivation? Spring LIVE will also engage multiple partners to expand reach and impact and build capacity in their fields. National partners include the National Park Service and Next Avenue; citizen science partners include Celebrate Urban Birds, National Phenology Network, Monarch Blitz, and SciStarter, among others. PBS stations will work with these organizations to involve diverse, intergenerational audiences in observation of nature and seasonal change. Project evaluation, implemented by Knight Williams Research Communications, will focus on the impact of live television on science learning, and the success of the integration of citizen science projects on air, online, and in communities. 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. 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.


Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 1811511
Funding Amount: $2,850,000.00


  • Fred Kaufman
    Principal Investigator
  • Discipline: Climate | Life science
    Audience: Adults | Families | General Public | Museum/ISE Professionals | Scientists | Evaluators
    Environment Type: Media and Technology | Broadcast Media | Websites, Mobile Apps, and Online Media | Public Programs | Citizen Science Programs

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