Monday, October 22, 2007

ASTC Day 3

More highlights from my time at the ASTC meeting...

Sunday, October 14, 2007


This morning's keynote had two speakers - Adam and Jamie from the Discovery Channel's MythBusters!! I have to admit that although I'd heard of MythBusters, I'd never actually watched an episode. After hearing Jamie and Adam talk however and seeing how truly interested they are in helping teach us a little science through debunking urban legends, I have to say I plan to start watching. It was really cool to hear them talk about how they became interested in science, how they come up with ideas for the show, and how difficult it can be to convince the producers (and their insurance agents!) to let them go through with said ideas. A highlight of their keynote was getting to view never-before-aired footage from "Facts about Flatulence". You'll have to check it out for yourself...

Experience Design session
Aside from helping to work the NASA booth, I attended a session on Experience Design. The session focused on encouraging visitor learning through themed experiences. For example, the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia (site of the 2008 ASTC meeting) has created a series of programs in which school groups don't just visit the museum, see a bunch of exhibits and/or presentations about unrelated topics, and then leave. Instead, their visits, called "Experiences", focus on a central them from start to finish such that
the experience provides "hands-on, auditory and visual reinforcement". Experiences focus on a featured exhibit, the theme of which is coordinated with a hands-on workshop, an interactive science show, and a thematically related IMAX or planetarium show. An example is their "Identity Experience". Another one of the presenters was an Imagineer for Disney. He talked about the work that went into designing and building the new Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage attraction that opened this summer at Disneyland in CA.

Field Trip to the Moon
Later in the day I got to see a screening of the new Field Trip to the Moon DVD in one of the inflatable domes in the exhibit hall. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the DVD and related educational materials, which were developed by the American Museum of Natural History with help from NASA, are FREE! Click here for details. It was fabulous and I highly recommend you check it out. One of the great things about it is that there's a captioned version and an un-captioned version so that you can make up your own script to fit your audience, learning objectives, etc.

Field Trip to the Museum of Jurassic Technology
Later that afternoon I had a chance to visit the Museum of Jurassic Technology. The MJT is awesome!! I was so excited to visit it after having read case studies about it in my museum classes at ASU. Some of you may be familiar with it from the book Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonders: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology by Lawrence Weschler. As its name implies, the MJT is a place of contradictions and juxtaposition (since the Jurassic period ended about 145 million years ago) in the style of the cabinets of curiosities that were popular in the 16th and 17th centuries and that preceded the modern museum . The MJT mixes science, art, reality, and fiction so well that you leave it questioning your ability to distinguish between them. A visit to the MJT is a lesson on the importance of critical thinking and how we shouldn't always believe everything we read, hear, or see. It's also an exploration of what it takes to make a museum - must a "museum" have objects, display cases, text panels, even a building in order to function as such??

California Science Center
The evening ended with an after-hours party at the California Science Center. I had a ton of fun wandering around the exhibits and meeting new people (and eating lots of food). The CSS is impressive in its size, scope, and programs. A really cool aspect of the CSS is that they actually have an elementary school on site called the Science Center School. How cool would it be to be able to utilize the unique resources of a science center as a student or teacher??

Stay tuned for Day 4 tomorrow...

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