Innovative City Science Exhibit Planned for Worcester’s EcoTarium
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
The collaboration with exhibit designers and science educators at the EcoTarium, New England's leading science and nature center, is funded as a pilot grant from the NSF's Advancing Informal STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Learning program.
"This grant allows us to work with researchers to bring incredible science to our visitors," said EcoTarium President Joseph Cox. "We will create innovative ways to engage our visitors in conversations about building a better city and share this exciting work with science museums nationwide."
The project, "From the Lab to the Neighborhood: An Interactive Living Exhibit for Advancing STEM Engagement with Urban Systems in Science Museums," will develop prototype exhibits about the science people encounter in their everyday lives, but rarely stop to consider: What keeps our buildings and bridges standing? What is the hidden infrastructure that brings water in and out of our houses? What is a better solution for a problem road intersection? How do trees affect temperature -- and our air conditioning bills?
Using Worcester as a backdrop, the exhibit will explore the connections between cities and the people, plants, and animals that live in them. With hands-on experiment stations, visitors of all ages will discover these connections from different perspectives in a city -- above, below, and street-level.
"From the Lab to the Neighborhood" breaks new ground by asking museum visitors, including school children, to participate in the social science research process, an area that has received less attention in many science museums. The project builds on existing urban ecology research conducted by the UMass/Amherst environmental conservation department.
"I'm pleased that this federal grant will allow the EcoTarium to further their innovative work and harness local partnerships to bring cutting-edge research on urban ecology to a wide range of people," said Congressman Jim McGovern. "This program will be used as a model for others across the country, enhancing the EcoTarium's reputation as a hub for pioneering scientific education."
Co-principal investigator Colin Polsky, Associate Professor of Geography at Clark University, will provide technical assistance and engage Clark students in some of the prototyping activities.
"This exciting award serves as another illustration of how Clark University's LEEP program can create 21st-century learning opportunities for undergraduate students," said Professor Polsky. "Here, a cutting-edge NSF research project will be brought into the classroom, and students will have the opportunity to shape the outcome. In the process, students will develop valuable team-building, communication, and project-management skills. The goal is to develop students' abilities to manage complexity and uncertainty alongside their knowledge of urban ecology."
Connecting Students and Teachers
The project will also integrate an NSF-funded K-12 urban ecology curriculum into the exhibit, using the results from the prototyping to inform new curriculum modules. Led by project team member Eric Strauss of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, this new curriculum will let science teachers and their students try out the exhibit prototypes as they are being developed and learn about the scientific research process. Ultimately, these lessons will allow urban children to see the city around them as an ecology laboratory.
National Impact on Museums
"From the Lab to the Neighborhood" is seen as a pilot for a national model to bring urban ecology research to science museums across the country. It will bring together staff from six other science museums in California and New England to review the exhibit prototypes, and to discuss how their museums can develop new urban ecology exhibits.
This pilot project builds on preliminary City Science exhibit planning already conducted by the EcoTarium staff and focuses on trying out these new exhibit ideas with visitor feedback. This study will inform the permanent exhibition, for which the EcoTarium is currently pursuing funding to complete.
Related Slideshow: 7 Art Galleries To Visit In Central MA
55 Salisbury Street, Worcester
The Worcester Art Museum, often referred to by its acronym WAM, is the most acclaimed cultural attraction in the city of Worcester. The world famous "classic American museum" contains over 35,000 pieces of artwork spanning over 5,000 years. Currently on display is [remastered]: A reinstallation of the Worcester Art Museum's paintings from the 16th-18th centuries provides a new look at Old Masters.
25 Sagamore Road, Worcester
The Worcester Center for Crafts’ Krikorian Gallery, in conjunction with Worcester State University, is committed to "sustaining craft as a vital part our community" through education, advocacy, and entrepreneurship. They are currently holding its Holiday Festival of Crafts 2013 this weekend.
25 Merriam Parkway, Fitchburg
The Fitchburg Art Museum is one of the cultural treasures of North Central Massachusetts. Though not quite as famous as its cousin to the south, the Worcester Art Museum, the Fitchburg museum still houses an impressive permanent collection of art spanning 5,000 years. Check out their current exhibition: Still Life Lives! - A celebration of the vitality of the still life tradition and its themes of beauty, bounty, darkness, fragility, and fleeting moments, which runs through January 14.
38 Harlow Street, Worcester
The Sprinkler Factory is a unique gem in Downtown Worcester and a true center for all the arts. Once a manufacturing plant, the Sprinkler Factory now provides space for individual artists to form their own studios and contains areas for music, dance, and other fun activities. The massive atrium on the second floor in the middle of the complex is available for local artists to show their work. The public is welcome to browse the artists' studios and galleries. An upcoming exhibition entitled Indoor Games , runs from December 7 through January 25, captures the spirit of creativity during the winter months.
960 Main Street, Fitchburg
Since its opening in 2008 by founders by Ann and Peter Capodagli, the Boulder Art Gallery has been committed to showing original and vintage paintings, photographs, prints and sculptures from the region's most talented artists. A true variety of work from both new and established artists is on display in a multitude of mediums and styles; check out oils, acrylics, watercolors and pastels. Many pieces are also available for purchase.
660 Main Street; 657 Main Street, Worcester
The Aurora Gallery and the “GArtH” Gallery of Art at the Hadley are run by the organization ArtsWorcester, and both show the work of local artists, many of whom are members of the group. For a list of current and upcoming exhibits, click here and here.
44 Portland Street, Worcester
Since its founding in 2006, the Davis Art Gallery has made it its mission to promote the Worcester art community and create awareness of the local creative culture. One of the ways the gallery does this is by showing the work of local artists in a great variety of different mediums. Currently, you can see an exhibit by Emily and Robb Sandagata; Unearthed, which runs through February 7th.
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