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Building Global Connections

Children in Saudi Arabia enjoy making something at the Exploratorium's Tinkering Studio.

Building Global Connections

Our world extends far beyond our physical home in San Francisco. We reach out across cultures and continents to build connections with people and institutions in Saudi Arabia, India, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, Slovakia, Portugal, and many other countries. Through these connections, we broaden our influence on formal and informal learning and help build a strong global community of educators and learners.

A lot of what we do—from online engagement to scientific collaborations with, for example, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and CERN—has a global connection. Many of our projects and programs do, too. Exploratorium Global Studios is actively growing our global influence through projects with foreign governments, universities, museums, libraries, hospitals, and other public and private entities around the world. It creates learning environments, builds networks, and works with clients and partners to understand and address their specific goals and projects. The Exploratorium’s Tinkering Studio™ has connections to Global Studios; ExNET is part of it.

The Tinkering Studio invites people to make something and, through the process of making, become deeply engaged in curiosity-driven learning. Staff from the Tinkering Studio have brought learning opportunities to India, Saudi Arabia, and other countries. ExNET is a hybrid exhibit and teaching program. It offers theme-based exhibit collections, matches the professional development needs of each institution, conducts workshops on topics that are interesting to our partners, and creates opportunities for partners to share ideas and learn from each other. ExNET partners come from museums worldwide, and exchange exhibits, staff, and expertise.

Both our Teacher Institute (TI) and our Institute for Inquiry (IFI) also support international efforts to improve science education. TI is the professional development home for middle school and high school science teachers and offers summer teacher institutes at the museum. For over ten years, the Teacher Institute has led professional development workshops throughout Costa Rica, for example, as part of the country’s ongoing efforts to strengthen K–12 science education. TI has also led teacher workshops and contributed its expertise to museum-based science education programs in Mexico, Chile, Brazil, France, Italy, Spain, Singapore, Australia, and South Korea. TI has brought over 50 internationally recognized science educators to the Exploratorium to participate in its summer institutes, including educators from Sweden, Italy, Thailand, Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, and East Timor. It is also providing training, support, and expertise for the Science for Monks project (see below).

The Institute for Inquiry is a professional development program that addresses the theory and practice of inquiry-based science education as an approach to coming to a deeper understanding of scientific phenomena and practices. Its workshops and seminars are for lead teachers, professional developers, administrators, national education reform leaders, out-of-school educators, and the university community. Sponsored by the Technológico de Monterrey's Graduate School of Education in Monterrey, Mexico, IFI has provided workshops for teacher educators from universities throughout Mexico. And, in the Republic of Panama, SENACYT (National Secretariat for Science, Technology, and Innovation) has sponsored IFI in providing science resources that aid in the reform of science education throughout the country; participants came from Chile, Mexico, and Columbia as well as Panama. IFI also attracts participants from around the world to its own workshops. In addition, more than 6,000 educators worldwide—including educators from East Timor, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Ukraine, Egypt, Israel, and Japan—have downloaded IFI’s curriculum guides, which are used by professional developers to give workshops that introduce elementary school teachers to inquiry-based science teaching.

In addition, we make global connections through our Center for Informal Learning and Schools (CILS), which collaborates with Kings College London to strengthen the leadership and practice of informal science education across the United States and Europe. As a result of this partnership, we’ve created residencies, workshops, and conferences; conducted joint research into how to make educational research more available to informal science educators; and graduated doctoral students who now hold leadership positions at both formal and informal institutions. We also collaborate with King’s College on Relating Research to Practice, a website that contains briefs summarizing recent peer-reviewed educational research.

Here are two of our most recent global partnership projects; there are many others—and many more to come.

  • Tinkering Studio in Saudi Arabia: In the Middle East, several countries, including Saudi Arabia, are making significant long-term investments in education. In 2012, the Tinkering Studio was invited to participate in the Saudi Aramco Cultural Program, an annual science festival in Al Khobar. Staff from the Tinkering Studio worked with sixteen young Saudi facilitators to create a specialized learning environment where thousands of festival participants were able to build, hack, invent, and think with their hands. This groundbreaking partnership was a transformative experience for the Saudi facilitators, many of whom worked on mixed gender teams and experienced inquiry-based learning for the first time.
  • Science for Monks: This unique international partnership, part of a ten-year initiative, brings together our Teacher Institute and Tinkering Studio as part of the Dalai Lama’s mission to increase the science literacy of Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns living in India. The project began in 2009 when Exploratorium science educators journeyed to India. They introduced Buddhist scholars, who were leaders and science teachers at their monasteries, to Western science and technology, focusing on hands-on explorations and scientific inquiry. Since then, about a dozen Exploratorium educators have traveled to India to work with the monks. In 2012, the monks and nuns came to San Francisco and presented an exhibition, The World of Your Senses, at the Exploratorium. The exhibition featured paintings that depicted sensory perception from both Buddhist and Western scientific perspectives.