Collaborating with Educational Institutions
At the Exploratorium, we work to build understanding about learning, to change the way that people learn, and to make science education more accessible and equitable. While we do this at the museum and online, we also build powerful collaborations with other educational institutions—from King’s College London to MIT to the Sonoma Valley Unified School District—to further understanding and to effect change.
For example, a collaboration between our Center for Informal Learning and Schools (CILS) program, the University of Washington, and King’s College London has helped to make educational research more available to informal science educators. Working with MIT’s Media Lab has led to the development of our Tinkering Studio, an immersive experience in which making something becomes a compelling way to explore scientific phenomena. And a collaboration between the Sonoma Valley Unified School District and the Exploratorium Institute for Inquiry has created a powerful way to engage both language and science skills through an inquiry-based science curriculum.
The list of collaborators and projects below highlights just a few of our educational collaborations and some of the projects we’re doing—or have done—together.
- King’s College London: Since 2002, we’ve collaborated with King’s 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. The briefs are written with the interests, needs, and insitutional settings of informal science educators in mind. The Afterschool Alliance and the University of Washington are also collaborators on this project.
- University of Washington Institute for Science and Math Education: The Exploratorium Center for Informal Learning and Schools has been working closely with UW for several years. Our collaboration produced LOST Opportunities: Learning in Out-of-School TIme. It also produced two new major collaborations focused on strengthening connections between research and practice in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education: Relating Research to Practice (see above) and The Research+Practice Collaboratory. The R+P Collaboratory conducts research, convenes conferences, and creates resources to strengthen connections between STEM education research and practice, across both formal and informal settings. The Collaboratory also includes the Education Development Center, Inverness Research, TERC, and the University of Colorado–Boulder.
- MIT: The MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten program was a catalyst for the Exploratorium’s Tinkering Studio, a place where visitors investigate scientific and aesthetic phemomena through processes of design and making. Working with MIT, the Tinkering Studio fosters national and international networks of educators committed to supporting opportunities for creative and playful invention, and celebrates thinking by making with your hands.
- SRI International: Researchers from SRI International and the Exploratorium are equally invested in understanding how people's learning and interest develop across timeframes and settings. Together, we conducted a four-year national study of learning in science-rich afterschool programs. We’re also a research partner in SRI’s nationwide evaluation of the National Science Foundation's Informal Science Education program. Researchers from SRI and the Exploratorium have also coauthored several papers and reports, and collaboratively designed national conferences addressing STEM learning across settings.
- The Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE): CAISE is a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded program housed at the Association of Science-Technology Centers in Washington, DC. The Center works in collaboration with the NSF Advancing Informal STEM Learning Program (AISL) to strengthen and advance the field of informal science education and its infrastructure by providing connectivity, resources, and community. Together, CAISE and the Exploratorium have produced Making Science Matter: Collaborations Between Informal Science Education Organizations and Schools, participated in discussions about the expansion of media in science, and are supporting work that strengthens the infrastructure of informal science education nationwide.
- The Boys & Girls Club (at sites in San Francisco, California): In our hometown, we’re actively working with the Boys & Girls Club centers, designing, implementing, and documenting a Tinkering in Afterschool program as part of a local node of the California Tinkering Network, which we lead. Collaborators in the Network include the California Afterschool Network, the Watsonville Community Science Workshop, the Fresno Community Science Workshop, Techbridge, and the Discovery Museum in Orange County, California.
- Sonoma Valley Unified School District (SVUSD): Research has shown powerful connections between the processes of language acquisition and science. By providing English-language developers with engaging science learning opportunities, we provide students with powerful experiences to speak and write about, while helping them acquire language skills in the process. Our Institute for Inquiry began a pilot program with teachers at one elementary school in the district in 2008; it’s now a five-year program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, that works with all elementary schools in the district.