Selected Projects

On the Spot checkmark

On-the-Spot Assessment to Improve Scientist Engagement with the Public

NSF DRL $1.2 million

The On-the-Spot Assessment project will develop and test a model for audience assessment that STEM professionals can use during their public engagement efforts. These assessments will allow scientists to monitor audience understanding and use this to make immediate improvements to their activity. The project is a partnership with the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning at Oregon State University, and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

Secrets of the Universe

An Evidence-based Informal STEM Learning (ISL) Professional Framework

NSF DRL $887,730

This collaborative research project centers on the development and validation of a theoretically grounded and empirically derived framework for professional growth and learning within the informal STEM learning field. The Association of Science-Technology Centers, Oregon State University's Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning, Pacific Science Center, University of Washington Museology Department, and the Lifelong Learning Group of the Center for Science & Industry in Columbus, OH (COSI Columbus) are collaborating to develop the framework.

Secrets of the Universe

Secrets of the Universe

NSF DRL $2.8 million

This giant screen (IMAX) film produced in 3D/2D by K2 Communications and Stephen Low Productions will inform and engage audiences about the fundamental research under investigation at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organization for Particle Physics (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. A research plan and summative evaluation will fill a gap in what is known about the public's perception and understanding of particle physics, and include studies on girls' interest and engagement. The Franklin Institute's Dept. of Gender and Family Learning, U.C. Davis Dept. of Physics, Multimedia Research, Knight-Williams Inc., and eight science center theaters are partners in the project. See:

Indigenous Worldviews in Informal Science Education

Indigenous Worldviews in Informal Science Education (I-WISE): Integration, Synthesis, and Opportunity

NSF DRL $249,664

The I-WISE Conference organized by 'Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai'i and the Indigenous Education Institute is designed to advance research on the integration of Native and Western science in relation to informal science learning. The conference will be held in Albuquerque, NM, with a follow-up policy meeting in Washington, DC. See:

My Sky Tonight

My Sky Tonight: Early Childhood Pathways
to Astronomy

NSF DRL $2.5 million

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific will conduct a set of research and development activities focusing on early childhood astronomy in the first field-wide effort to increase the capacity of informal science institutions to effectively engage their youngest visitors. Project collaborators include cognitive psychologists from UC Santa Cruz, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and Penn State, with the Lawrence Hall of Science, Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose, and San Luis Obispo Children's Museum as sites for research, field-testing, and implementation. Sasha Palmquist will conduct the project evaluation. See:

Human Computer Interaction in Informal Science Education (HCI+ISE)

Human Computer Interaction in Informal Science Education (HCI+ISE)

NSF DRL $212,860

The HCI+ISE Conference will bring together museum exhibit designers and developers, learning researchers, and technology industry professionals to explore the potential impact of new HCI technologies in ISE settings and the balance between exhibit technology and the visitor experience. The conference is organized by Ideum and Independent Exhibitions. See:

Native Universe

Native Universe: Indigenous Voice in Science Museums

NSF DRL $1.9 million

The Indigenous Education Institute, 'Imiloa Astronomy Center, and Center for Science Education at UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory will create a professional development program for science museums which fosters systemic institutional change through the infusion of indigenous voice in programs and exhibits focusing on environmental change. The Institute for Learning Innovation will conduct the impact evaluation. See:

Human +

Human +

NSF DRL $1.3 million

The New York Hall of Science, NSF Quality of Life Technology Engineering Research Center of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, Oregon Museum of Science & Industry, and the Institute for Learning Innovation will engage engineers, educators, designers, and people with disabilities in the design of a public exhibition about the science, technology, and social issues of human enhancement. See:

Open Exhibits

Open Exhibits

NSF DRL $2.1 million

Ideum, Inc., in collaboration with the Institute for Learning Innovation will develop original, multitouch-enabled, open source exhibit software that will transform the ability of science museums to assemble interactive computer-based exhibits. Rockman Et Al will conduct the project's summative evaluation. See:

Communicating Climate Change

Communicating Climate Change

NSF DRL $2.9 million

The Association of Science-Technology Centers in collaboration with the Yale Project on Climate Change, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, ScienCentral, Inc., and twelve U.S. science centers will engage the public in climate change through simultaneous exhibitions, citizen science programs, and television newscasts. David Heil & Associates will conduct summative evaluation.

Cosmic Serpent

Cosmic Serpent : Bridging Native & Western Science Learning in Informal Settings

NSF DRL $2.3 million

This collaborative research project of the Indigenous Education Institute and the U.C. Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory will increase the capacity of museum practitioners to bridge native and western science learning in informal settings. The Institute for Learning Innovation will conduct project evaluation. See:

Lupé's Story

Lupé's Story

NSF DRL $2.2 million

The Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose in collaboration with the U.C. Santa Cruz Department of Developmental Psychology and the U.C. Berkeley Museum of Paleontology will produce a public exhibition titled "Mammoth Discovery! as a research setting to study how children use evidence to construct scientific explanations in informal environments. The project uses the serendipitous discovery of a fossilized Columbian mammoth — later named Lupé for the Guadalupé River near where she was found — to address cutting edge issues in both developmental psychology and informal science education. Randi Korn & Associates is the project evaluator. See:

Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE)

NSF DRL $5 million

The Association of Science-Technology Centers in partnership with the Oregon State University Program on Free-Choice Learning, University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments, and the Visitor Studies Association will develop a national infrastructure for informal science education. Inverness Research Associates will conduct project evaluation. See:

Sharing the Skies

Sharing the Universe

NSF DRL $1.4 million

This professional development project of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in partnership with the Institute for Learning Innovation seeks to improve the quality and effectiveness of informal science education activities provided by amateur astronomers. The review panel gave this proposal a rating of ten highs for funding priority:

  • "Overall, this project has great merit and provides deliverables that are well thought out and organized."
  • "This proposal addresses all elements required by NSF's ISE Program very thoroughly."

Summative Evaluation Report:

Maya Observatory

Maya Skies: Research & Capacity-Building in Full-dome Planetariums

NSF DRL $2.6 million

Chabot Space & Science Center in partnership with Lodestar Astronomy Center and the Institute for Learning Innovation won funding for this three-year research project to produce a full-dome digital planetarium theater show. Film Trailer:

Life Changes

Life Changes

NSF DRL $2.5 million

The New York Hall of Science in partnership with the University of Michigan Center for Human Growth & Development, North Museum of Natural History & Science, Miami Science Museum & Planetarium, and Association of Science-Technology Centers won funding for this four-year research project which will yield insight into how children ages 5-12 learn complex science. The primary deliverable is a traveling exhibition on evolution geared to children and their parents. The Institute for Learning Innovation will conduct evaluation. Panel reviewers commented:

  • "This is a strong project with top notch personnel, excellent science content, a strong collaborative network, and comprehensive research and evaluation plans."
  • "The project is an unusually comprehensive and inclusive one with the potential for a high level of impact."
  • "The team is exceptionally strong, the theoretical foundations clearly articulated, and the methodology well thought out and thorough."

The exhibition "Charlie and Kiwi's Evolutionary Adventure" opened at the New York Hall of Science in Spring of 2009.

Wild Minds

Wild Minds: What Animals Really Think

NSF DRL $2.1 million

The New York Hall of Science, Institute for Learning Innovation, Hunter College of the University of New York, and a consortium of five regional science center/zoo partnerships will develop a research-based traveling exhibition for science centers that explores animal cognition and cross-institutional programming for zoos. See:

Hotspot California

Hotspot California: Bringing Dioramas to Life Through Community Voices

NSF DRL $2.5 million

The Oakland Museum of California in collaboration with Independent Exhibitions will implement a natural science gallery transformation that will explore the educational potential of wildlife dioramas to engage the public in urgent environmental issues. The Garibay Group will conduct applied research into how museum visitors make meaning with dioramas. Beverly Serrell is the project evaluator. See: