How to make a museum: Some of the prototyping behind our new MeLaβ exhibition

Posted on April 26th, 2016

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By: MiaSci

Rendering of MeLaβ in the Baptist Health People & Science Gallery

Rendering of MeLaβ in the Baptist Health People & Science Gallery

As told by Science Curator, Lindsay Bartholomew

As exhibit developers, our goal is to create an experience that is enjoyable, informative and inspirational for everyone. A big part of this process has involved prototyping and testing topics, game play and activities at events around the community, and then using that feedback to improve our ideas.

Having the opportunity to test ideas is especially important for the MeLaβ, an exhibition located in the Baptist Health People and Science Gallery in our new museum. The highly interactive MeLaβ is all about the daily choices you make that affect your health and happiness. Our goal, as we develop the different stations of the exhibition, is to create elements that let you experiment with your own health choices. You may not even realize how many choices you make every day that affect how you feel. Seemingly simple things like taking a moment to relax, and understanding strategies for grocery shopping (yes, there really are strategies), can have enormous effects on your health.

Did you know that feeling and expressing gratitude has been linked with many mental and health benefits, including better sleep and even stronger immune systems? We wanted to devise something for MeLaβ that would help guests explore this topic and reflect on what they are most grateful for in their lives.

Our first prototype activity on gratitude

Our first prototype activity on gratitude.

At events such as the Day for Children Health Fair at NOVA University, we set up a simple wooden board with pins in the shape of a heart, and invited guests to wind colorful strings around pins representing someone or something they are thankful for, like parents, friends, pets, or good health. The result at the end of the day? We ended up with a beautiful form expressing the interconnections of gratitude, and guests said they felt good as they thought about what they are grateful for (possibly even reaping some of the health benefits). The feedback they gave us helped us hone an exhibit experience on gratitude for MeLaβ.

A young guest adds her string to show what she is grateful for.

A young guest adds her string to show what she is grateful for.

A more advanced design of the gratitude activity, prototyped at the museum’s Young Patron’s event in March.

A more advanced design of the gratitude activity, prototyped at the museum’s Young Patron’s event in March.

Since the MeLaβ has lots of elements, we’ve tested numerous prototypes at other community events, and appreciate all of the feedback we received. Here are just a few of those activities:

– We used memory games and challenges to test guests’ reaction to stress at the Children’s Trust event and the Junior Hearts Club at the American Heart Association’s Miami-Dade HeartWalk.

– We challenged guests to write with the hand that they don’t normally use at the Brain Fair at the University of Miami, so as to explore exhibit ideas related to neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to adapt over time or after injury).

– We created activities displaying the amount of sugar in common foods and drinks, which shocked some guests at the Healthy Halloween event at West Kendall Baptist Hospital and the SOBE Food and Wine Festival’s Fun and Fit as a Family event at Jungle Island, and perhaps led them to make new decisions for the next day’s meals.

Guests investigate the (sometimes shocking) amount of sugar in some foods and drinks.

Guests investigate the (sometimes shocking) amount of sugar in some foods and drinks.

After all of our prototyping, we’ve been able to really craft MeLaβ into something that’s going to be an even more fun, informative, and energizing. Hopefully it will inspire you to think about the range of choices you can make that affect your health and happiness.

Mangrove Planting on Virginia Key with MUVE

Posted on April 22nd, 2016

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By: MiaSci

White House Invites Frost Science to a Google+ Hangout on STEM Education

Posted on April 14th, 2016

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By: MiaSci

By Cheryl Lani Juárez

Children and parents investigate water flow together at Frost Family Science Day.

Children and parents investigate water flow together at Frost Family Science Day.

Frost Science is more than a museum. Our education department leads several federally- funded programs designed to make science education more equitable nationally, and more powerful on an individual basis.

A great example of that is a program we lead called CHISPA (Children Investigating Science with Parents and Afterschool). Funded by the National Science Foundation, CHISPA builds stronger communities and increase the engagement of Hispanic children and their families with science and local science resources, and is a national collaboration between Frost Science, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the ASPIRA Association, and a network of ten other science museums located in cities with growing Latino populations.

Last month the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics invited us to share our work during a national Google+ Hangout on STEM Education. The interactive online session provided an opportunity to talk about CHISPA, which was named by the White House as a Bright Spot in Hispanic Education earlier this year, and hear from seven other Bright Spots from across the nation who are also helping to close the achievement gap for Hispanic students.

We talked about the bridges that the CHISPA National Museum Network is building between science centers and their local Hispanic communities through family science events, parent workshops, and the use of a hands-on science curriculum that we developed and tested here at Frost Science.

When asked why informal science organizations like museums are important community resources, we shared an eye-opening statistic: Children have 6,000 waking hours every year, and only spend about 1,000 hours in school. That leaves 5,000 hour or so for other activities! That’s a fantastic opportunity. Science museums such as our can provide rich experiences to kids all over the U.S., and strengthen science learning, not only for children but for the whole family. We here at Frost Science find that exciting.

Children hunt for pill bugs to occupy an ecosystem built in a salsa portion cup.

Children hunt for pill bugs to occupy an ecosystem built in a salsa portion cup.

You can watch the Google+ Hangout here.

The Initiative is hosting a series of public engagements, via Google + Hangout throughout the year. Upcoming events include:

  • Latino Teacher Recruitment – April 20, 2016
  • Early Learning – May 18, 2016
  • College Access – June 15, 2016

 

CHISPA Google + Hangout participants:

  • Cheryl Lani Juárez, CHISPA Principal Investigator, Frost Science
  • Isabel Leeder, CHISPA Project Director, Frost Science
  • Julie Riveron Bello, ASPIRA Program Director
  • Olivia Diaz, Teacher, ASPIRA K-8 Academy, Homestead

Frost Science to lead Code.org Professional Learning Programs in Miami

Posted on April 13th, 2016

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By: MiaSci

Our partnership with Code.org enhances exposure to computer science for both teachers and their students.

Our partnership with Code.org enhances exposure to computer science for both teachers and their students.

Frost Science has been selected as a Code.org Professional Learning Partner offering Code.org Professional Learning programs, giving South Florida teachers grades K through 12, and thus their students, greater exposure to computer science at a time when such studies are crucial for prosperity. We will be part of a nationwide network of partners providing quality professional development to interested educators, and building a positive local computer science educator community. The news comes as part of a Code.org announcement made at The White House Science Fair on Wednesday, April 13.

Launched in 2013, Code.org seeks to increases diversity in computer science by reaching students of all backgrounds where they are — at their skill-level, in their schools, and in ways that inspire them to keep learning. “Code.org is proud to partner with the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science to expand access to computer science in South Florida at a time when the majority of K-12 schools still don’t offer it,” says Hadi Partovi, CEO and Founder of Code.org. “By offering Code.org Professional Learning Programs, Frost Science will give teachers the tools and support they need to introduce foundational 21st-century skills into their classrooms and put all students on a path to success in today’s high-tech world.”

In partnership with the Miami Dade County Public Schools, Frost Science will begin training teachers in summer 2016 at the former museum home on the Vizcaya complex, located in Coconut Grove. The first workshop, a weeklong Exploring Computer Science (ECS) Professional Learning Program, will support teachers of upper middle school and lower high school students. The program is designed to promote growth in the computer science teaching practice, providing space for teachers to become comfortable with the Code.org curricular materials and associated teaching strategies. Teachers can click here to sign up, starting soon.

Code.org will provide Frost Science with the funding and training to complete its designation as a local Code.org Professional Learning Partner. In this role, the museum will offer professional development workshops to local educators at no cost for the first two years. In year one, Frost Science will offer professional development in Exploring Computer Science, Computer Science in Algebra, and Computer Science in Science. In year two, we will add AP(R) Computer Science Principles and Computer Science Discoveries.

Frost Science has a wonderful history with Code.org. Four years ago our education department began integrating their curriculum into our STEM training workshops for Miami-Dade County public school teachers. When we shared with Code.org the many ways we work with families, teachers, and underserved youth, and how our new museum is poised to provide tech opportunities to a diverse population, they saw the potential and extended an invitation for us to collaborate as a training center. We’re happy to see Code.org align with our goals, helping enhance the work we have been doing with gender equity, youth projects and teacher development.

Exploring the Immersive Universe

Posted on April 6th, 2016

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By: MiaSci

By Dr. Jorge Perez-Gallego, Curator of Astronomy and Exhibition Developer at Frost Science:

Technology is quickly making immersive environments, well, more immersive. One of the most interesting parts of my job with the Frost Planetarium is keeping up with the industry and bringing top-level advancements to Frost Science.

During the week of March 16, I attended the 2016 IMERSA (Immersive Media Entertainment, Science, and Arts) Summit in Denver, CO, a non-profit professional trade association that supports the international immersive community, and their production of extensive immersive digital experiences. Each year immersive professionals from all over the world get together to search for common ground as we all navigate a landscape of rapid technological and social change (it’s also an opportunity for me as a Floridian to hit the slopes, but that’s a story for some other time). During the week, we celebrated the worlds of giant-screen cinema, themed entertainment, gaming, virtual reality, planetariums, computer graphics, science visualization, and informal science education.

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One of the Frost Planetarium’s goals is to open its doors to scientists, educators, students and artists so as to develop their careers, but also to help them develop their own immersive content, and contribute to the furthering of the medium itself. Immersive media can be an incredible tool in science learning: we can share our love for the night sky, take you on awe-inspiring journeys through the universe, and dive deep into the Gulf Stream, explore the inside of the human brain, and discover the world of nanotechnology. All this allows us to create connections between the Planetarium and other galleries of Frost Science, such as the MeLaβ and the Living Core Aquarium.

The summit’s keynote speakers—Dr. David McConville, Jenny Carden, and Dr. JoAnn Kuchera-Morin—as well as all other presenters, discussed the past, present, and future of immersive environments.

Dr. McConville, from the Buckminster Fuller Institute, reminded us of a phrase coined by English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge two centuries ago: “willing suspension of disbelief.” Think about it—during live astronomy shows we ask the audience to suspend disbelief (to forget you’re in Miami), and take convincing journeys they would never be able to actually take, the goal being to break down the barriers between the arts, the sciences, and the humanities.

Artist and futurist Jenny Carden (A.K.A. Zenka) looked back at some of the humorous attempts at virtual and augmented reality in the past. Some of my favorites were the Hugo Gernsback TV glasses in the ‘60s, which were like a TV set you wore against your eyes, and Nintendo’s Virtual Boy of the ‘90s, a failed attempt at displaying video games through goggles. Zenka also shared how museums and other entities use leading-edge technologies such as Google’s Expeditions, which allows you to navigate real museums with virtual reality headsets.

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Finally, Dr. Kuchera-Morin, from the University of California–Santa Barbara, considered the difficulties of displaying, navigating, analyzing, and interacting with big data in large scale visual and auditory displays. The challenge lies in how to interpret the thousands of numbers available, and educating an audience to critique the numbers, not just accept them. Big data, virtual reality, and the contextualization of immersive experiences are just the tip of the iceberg. Many other topics were addressed and discussed as well.

As we development the programming for the new state-of-the-art 8K Frost Planetarium, we recognize these and other topics, and look forward to being part of the immersive conversation. I cannot wait to go to IMERSA again next year, as we will be open, and have even more to contribute.

Keep looking up!

Thank You, Miami-Dade County

Posted on April 6th, 2016

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By: MiaSci

At the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners meeting held on April 4, 2016, the County Board approved the grant agreement proposed by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez. This funding, along with the financing of existing pledges due past opening, allows Frost Science to keep construction on the museum moving toward completion in 2016, providing an internationally recognized science museum in South Florida.

The Frost Science Board of Trustees, leadership and staff are extremely grateful for the support of Mayor Gimenez, Board Chairman Jean Monestime and the Board of County Commissioners, and the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and Cultural Affairs Council. In addition to the grant, Frost Science will also continue fundraising efforts, with the aim of completing the capital campaign goal and supporting the endowment fund. We are committed to continuing and expanding our community initiatives, and offering rich opportunities in science, technology and innovation learning, all of which are crucial to our community’s future prosperity.