Exploratorium to Receive National Science Board's
2011 Public Service Award
For Its Contributions to Increasing Public Understanding of Science and Engineering
On April 4, 2011, the National Science Board (NSB) announced that the Exploratorium will receive its 2011 Public Service Award for unique contributions to increasing the public understanding of science and engineering. The NSB is the 25-member policy-making body for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and advisory body to the president and Congress on science and engineering issues.
The Exploratorium is a San Francisco-based museum that promotes informal education through webcasts, websites and science-based events, including hundreds of hands-on exhibits.
"The Exploratorium is the prototype public science educational institution for people of all ages," said NSB Chairman Ray Bowen. "It stands at the intersection of formal and informal science learning and teaching."
The museum was founded in 1969 by Manhattan Project experimental physicist Frank Oppenheimer, who, at various times, was also a professor, high school teacher and cattle rancher. While teaching physics at the University of Colorado, Oppenheimer received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop new methods for teachers to use when instructing students in science education. From that followed what he called a "Library of Experiments" -- nearly one hundred models of classic laboratory experiments -- that became the inspiration for the Exploratorium.
The museum is a mad scientist's penny arcade, an art studio and an experimental laboratory all rolled into one where visitors can touch, play and tinker with hands-on science. Behind the scenes are youth-development efforts, home-school and after-school programs, arts residencies, media experiments, teaching programs, informal education research and more.
The Exploratorium has seen more than 6,000 teachers participate in professional-development programs, including elementary, middle and high school teachers along with staff developers, school leaders, college professors and after-school professionals from all 50 states. Additionally, more than 90,000 students and teachers visit the museum while on field trips each year, and another 3,500 students -- many from San Francisco's underserved neighborhoods -- benefit from the Exploratorium's Educational Outreach program. Over 20 million visitors use the Exploratorium’s content rich website each year. At the 4th Science Center World Congress in Rio in 2005, science centers from five continents ranked the Exploratorium as the number one science center in the world.
The NSB's members agreed that the Exploratorium increased the public's understanding of the processes of science and engineering through scientific discovery, innovation, and its communication to the public, while encouraging others to help raise the public understanding of science and technology. Moreover, they note that for more than 40 years, the group promoted the engagement of scientists and engineers in public outreach and scientific literacy, contributed to the development of broad science and engineering policy, and influenced and encouraged the next generation of scientists and engineers.
The Public Service Award will be presented to the Exploratorium at a black-tie dinner and ceremony on May 10 at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. along with the recipient of the Board's Vannevar Bush Award, Charles Vest from the National Academy of Engineering and Dr. Moira Gunn, creator and host of Tech Nation, the recipient of the NSB's Public Service Award for an individual. The NSF's Alan T. Waterman Awardee, Casey Dunn of Brown University, will be honored that evening with his award, as well.
The NSB is drawn from universities and industry, and represents a variety of science and engineering disciplines and geographic areas, NSB members are selected for their eminence in research, education or public service and records of distinguished service. The NSB has 24 members that serve six-year terms.
Visit the NSB's website for more background information on its current composition.