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 partnerships 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 partnerships and some of the projects we’re doing—or have done—together.
Arizona State University and Rutgers University
Our Museum Labs 2.0 (ML2) project is a collaboration with Arizona State University Cooperation Theorist and Assistant Professor Athena Aktipis and Rutgers University Anthropologist and Professor Lee Cronk to test Exhibit-Based PPSR (E-PPSR), a new model for integrating museum exhibits with public participation in scientific research. Through "data catcher" exhibits, ML2 will engage science museum visitors in investigating social factors that promote cooperation, build public awareness of social science, and generate valid social science data. ML2 advances the integration of informal science education institutions and academic research. The project tests the feasibility of engaging visitors around complex behaviors of cooperation while collecting rigorous research data in an unmediated manner. If successful, ML2 will represent a new model for collaboration between the public, museums, and academic scientists. Hands-on, interactive exhibits may become a new tool for scientific research, broadening and diversifying the typical participant pool. At the same time, the model may motivate scientists to bring their cutting-edge research to the public in engaging ways.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.