Using Museums to Popularise Science and Technology

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Commonwealth Secretariat
01 Jan 2000
9781848597457 (PDF)

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Museums of all sorts and science centres offer excellent opportunities in popularising science and technology to achieve scientific and technological literacy. Science and technology educators and teachers will particularly find this book useful in determining how they could use those facilities effectively in making teaching science and technology enjoyable and contextual. The museum curators and science centres on the other hand will be able to use the book to assist teachers in their efforts to bring relevance and fun in the learning of these subjects.

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  • Preface

    A large number of Commonwealth countries are making efforts to popularise science and technology to achieve scientific and technological literacy amongst the public at large. A number of strategies are being employed to reach different target groups. In order to assist member countries in their efforts, the Commonwealth Secretariat has started a project on popularisation of the culture of science and technology.

  • Foreword

    The cane and the blackboard, the maths formulae and the exam schedule - all have long been part and parcel of the formal education system all over the world. Replace the cane with fun, the blackboard with computer multi-media, the maths formulae with hands-on exhibits, the exam schedule with a programme schedule - and you have a science centre! Teaching-learning processes in a science centre develop mental imagery through perceptual experience, and cognition through logical thought processes.

  • Introduction

    This book is an initiative of The Commonwealth Secretariat, published as a response to the increasing popularity of informal centres of learning. Museums and centres of all kinds - including science, arts and culture - play a key role in educational infrastructure through the provision of programmes and experiences that facilitate the learning of science and technology in formal or informal contexts. At the same time, however, there is a growing awareness that visits, especially by school groups, could be more successful if there were greater interaction between museum curators and teachers.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Interesting Initiatives - Stories of Success

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    • Interesting Initiatives – Stories of Success

      This section of the book is a selection of successful activities which have enhanced the visitor experience in a variety of settings. The authors are listed alphabetically, forming a random selection for the reader to sample.

    • The Malaysian National Science Centre and its Science Stories as a Visitors' Companion Programme

      The National Science Centre of Malaysia is situated at a 20-acre site at Bukit Kiara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is an informal education institution under the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment. The Centre's mission is to inculcate a science-cultured society, which will contribute to the nation's development to improve the quality of life.

    • The Learning Experience in The Nature Exchange

      Science North is a world-class science centre located in Northern Ontario, Canada. One of Science North's most popular exhibit spaces is the trading area called The Nature Exchange. This is a unique learning environment that relies on the personal “trading” of found natural items and information about them, to motivate interest and understanding about the natural world.

    • Art and Science? … NGA!

      As the premier art institution in Australia with over 90,000 works of arr in irs collection, the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) recognises that along with preservation and display, education and learning are integral to its purpose. People leam best when learning is fun and new information builds on what is already known and accepted. Science is fundamental to all aspects of life and provides a platform to build an understanding and appreciation of the visual arts.

    • Making Heritage Relevant

      The Canada Science and Technology Museum Corporation is comprised of the Canada Science and Technology Museum, the Canada Agriculture Museum and the Canada Aviation Museum. It is mandated “to foster scientific and technological lireracy throughout Canada by establishing, maintaining and developing a collection of scientific and technological objecrs…and by demonstrating the products and processes of science and technology and their economic, social and cultural relationships with society.”

    • Wild Ways of Learning: Zoo Education in New South Wales

      Zoos are sensory places - children and adults can see, smell, hear and touch wildlife.

    • Cultivating Green Awareness: Specialist Tracks and Programmes for Young Children at the Australian National Botanic Gardens

      Botanic gardens throughout the world are visited by over 150 million people each year and they provide an ideal environment for educating people on the beauty, importance and diversity of the plants in their lives.

    • Broadening Science Perspectives

      Botanic gardens play a significant role in raising community awareness of the importance of plants in our lives and the need for their conservation in the natural world. Spectacular living collections of plants, thetnatically arranged and well interpreted, provide general visirors and strucrured groups alike with a memorable immersion experience and a meaningful context for learning.

    • Caribbean Outreach – A Special Project

      As a result of colonial heritage, the English-speaking Caribbean lacks a tradition and culture in science and technology. In the pre-independence era of most of the islands, science and technology were not considered critical elements of primary and secondary curricula. Since, at that time, our economic horizons did not extend beyond the production of primary products, education, as a whole, did not have as its major aim, the preparation of citizens with the skills and confidence to work towards the elimination of the client-depend ant status.

    • Living With the River: The Rideau River Biodiversity Project

      The Rideau River winds out of a series of lakes that occupy an old fault in the landscape of southeastern Ontario. From the town of Smiths Falls to the bustling city of Ottawa, it drains an area of almost 4,000 square kilometres. For centuries the River was an important food source and transportation route and, with the construction of the Rideau Canal in the 1820s, its significance increased.

    • Science on the Move – Exhibit Design Workshops

      In 1995, Questacon, Australia's National Science and Technology Centre, toured its hand-on interactive Fascinating Science exhibition to Western Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. The stimulus for this programme came from the UNESCO office for the Pacific States and their concern that the Pacific region has little or no access to such prog ram même s that are taken for granted in many other regions of the world.

    • Exhibitry: Contributions to Entertainment and Learning

      Petrosains Discovery Centre located in Kuala Lumpur, offers visitors 7,000 square metres of exibitry. The focus is necessarily on oil and gas, since Petrosains is owned and funded by Petronas, Malaysia's Oil and Gas Company, ‘a multinational oil and gas company of choice’.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Making the Most of a Visit

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    • Making the Most of a Visit

      School excursions have been popular for many years, but they should be more than just an excuse to get out of the classroom. To make a visit to a science centre or museum a learning experience for the students, both teachers and centres need to be prepared to maximise the visit to transform an excursion from “an escape from school” into a worthwhile informal learning experience.

    • Visiting a Science Centre or Museum? Make it a REAL Educational Experience!

      People visit science centres, museums, zoos, botanical gardens and aquaria for many reasons. When teachers take their class for a visit, there is usually an educational reason, if only so that the visit can obtain the official stamp of approval! But it takes time and effort to organise the visit, so how can teachers be sure the visit is worth the effort? In the following, we present some guidelines we have distilled from an extensive review of research evidence. Most of the guidelines are common sense, but it is surprising how few teachers seem to realise that they really do make a difference.

    • The Unique Role of Science Centres in Immersing Students and Teachers in Real-World Science and Technology

      The Ontario Science Centre, an agency of the Ontario Government, is located in the large Canadian multicultural city of Toronto. Since its opening in 1969, the Centre has served more than 1 million visitors a year with a variety of experiential exhibits, interactive public programmes, as well as a unique selection of educational programmes.

    • Responding to Teacher Needs: ‘Fossils', a Hands-on Education in New Zealand

      The Science Centre, Manawatu Museum and Art Gallery combines visual and hands-on experiences of science and technology, heritage and art under one roof. A staff of 38 mount about 40 exhibitions a year, including touring shows and those that use our own collections and built exhibits. The organization serves a city of approximately 75,000, but many visitors come from much further afield.

    • Investing in Education for Better Public Programmes

      The Australian Museum was established in 1827 and has operated continuously at the College Street, Sydney site since 1845. As a museum of natural history, it has collections, research and public programmes in the areas of cultural heritage and the natural environment. The Museum provides services throughout New South Wales and extends its reach nationally and internationally via its scientific research, web programme and travelling exhibitions.

    • How Can Science Centre and Museum Education Programmes be Improved? Teachers' Responses to Pre-visit and Visit Questionnaires

      The Science Centre, Manawatu Museum and Art Gallery prides itself in tailoring education programmes to the requirements of visiting classes. Pre-visit and visit questionnaires are key tools that we use to communicate with teachers.

    • The Science Centre as Living Laboratory

      On 1st May 1995, after nine years in adapted premises, Techn¡quest moved to its present waterfront building in Cardiff Bay. This faciliry, the UK's first purpose-built science discovery centre, includes a 1500 square metre exhibition area, together with a science theatre, a planetarium, a public-access laboratory, a discovery room and a computer-based information centre.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Using Multimedia in Museums and Science Centres

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    • Using Multimedia in Museums and Science Centres

      Interactive computer programs and online adventures have become an important inclusion in exhibitions in science centres, museums and galleries. This section looks at some of the successes and shortfalls of digital technology.

    • Ingenious! Edutainment via Interactive Multimedia

      No one knows exactly who ‘HQ’ is. Some say he's an astronaut who changed his life after seeing the Earth from space. Others say he invented a time machine, and saw how bad the future would be if we didn't take better care of the Earth.

    • Real vs Virtual Visits: Issues for Science Centres

      More and more science centres around the world are issuing an invitation for people of all ages to enter the fascinating world of science and technology through their computer. Science centres are discovering that the Internet - in particular, the World Wide Web - provides a rapidly escalating opportunity to reach a wider audience, thereby promoting a greater public understanding and appreciation of science and technology and their impact on our everyday lives. The capacity of web browsing software to integrate text, images and sounds has attracted many science centres to the idea of establishing a presence on the web.

    • Computer-Based Exhibits: A Must-Have or a Liability?

      Computer-based exhibits are becoming more common in museums, galleries and science centres and are often expected to be part of exhibitions, especially among the younger generation. The need to include these exhibits can often override the practical aspects of funding, developing and implementing them. Where funding or availability of resources are issues, curators and exhibition designers may need to balance the draw card of having computer-based exhibits against the practical problem of providing a good exhibit.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts A Snapshot of Science Centre Research

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    • A Snapshot of Science Centre Research

      Research in science centres and museums is increasing all over the world. The articles presented here are snapshots of the kind of work being done and the kinds of conclusions being drawn. All the authors have long research experience and are characterised by work which probes further than simple visitor surveys.

    • What do Primary Students Gain From Discussion About Exhibits?

      The number of organised visits by classes, particularly from primary schools (grades 1-7), to museums of all kinds has increased steadily in many countries over the past decade. Museums which emphasise science and technology have been exceptionally busy, perhaps because of the increasingly central place allocated to the subject in the curriculum in many countries. McManus (1992) has distinguished between those science museums organised on a thematic basis, where education is seem primarily as the provision of information (Chambers, 1990) and those organised on a conceptual basis, where the intention is to support the development of specific ideas, in “science centres”.

    • A Wider Perspective on Museum Learning: Principles for Developing Effective Post-Visit Activities for Enhancing Students' Learning

      Many museum-based studies, which have investigated learning arising from visitors' museum experiences, have restricted such learning to visitors' experiences in the museum itself. Such a view is limiting of actual learning, which has the potential to extend beyond the formulation of knowledge in an in-gal!ery context. In this paper we discuss a view of learning that recognises the dynamic interplay of visitors' prior knowledge, their experiences during a museuml visit, and their subsequent life expetiences.

    • Evaluating the Design of Interactive Exhibits

      All science centres have a mission statement, which includes some kind of intent to improve the public appreciation, understanding or awareness of science. Questacon - The National Science and Technology Centre in Australia aspires to be a Centre that “raises national awareness, fosters understanding and instills positive attitudes to science and technology”. Aims such as these are, however, impossible to evaluate in a quantitative way, since such evaluation implies exhaustive pre-visit and post-visit testing both of visitors and non-visitors.

    • Appendix
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