This month the Exploratorium announces the opening of two new Bay Area collaborations, reinforcing its commitment to advance open-ended STEM learning at home and across the globe.
This graphic, part of an exhibit at Ciencia Pública: Agua, will help visitors understand the water systems of the Bay Area by identifying the location of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in relation to the parklet in the Mission District of San Francisco. © Exploratorium, exploratorium.edu.
SAN FRANCISCO (March 20, 2018)—The Exploratorium announces the opening of two new public spaces this month, resulting from collaborations with Bay Area learning institutions. The first project is a parklet in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco called Ciencia Pública: Agua, which will open to the public this spring. Ciencia Pública: Agua is a collaboration with the public K-8 Spanish immersion school Buena Vista Horace Mann, and will include a mural painted by students in the 8th grade Art Seminar at the school. The second project comes out of a partnership between the Exploratorium and the Chabot Space & Science Center to activate Chabot's new observation deck with exhibits that focus visitors' attention on the world around them. The deck will be open to the public on April 7th. Both partnerships bring the Exploratorium's expertise in designing open-ended, confidence-building STEM experiences to community spaces beyond the walls of its museum on Pier 15 of San Francisco's Embarcadero.
"The Exploratorium has been a pioneering leader in the field of science engagement and our inquiry-based learning methods have had a disproportionate influence on science education in California and around the world," says Chris Flink, Sakurako and William Fisher Executive Director of the Exploratorium. "While we're proud of our accomplishments over our first 50 years, there's a lot of meaningful work ahead of us as we continue to create innovative interactions and environments that help inspire greater awareness, curiosity, and a healthy sense of civic engagement and responsibility. These two projects are only the most recent in our commitment to bring experiences that ignite curiosity and develop inquiry to local and international communities beyond the 850,000 tourists and locals who pass through the Exploratorium's doors at the Embarcadero's Pier 15 in San Francisco each year."
Since 2012, the Exploratorium's Global Studios has partnered with dozens of organizations to create inquiry-based experiences that carry the Exploratorium's mission to "transform learning worldwide." Recent collaborations include a partnership with the A.M. Qattan Foundation to build a science center in Ramallah, Palestine, a partnership with Google to develop Science Journal (a free educational app that uses smartphones to collect and interpret scientific data), and the development of a social science exhibition intended to inspire an engaged American populace at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.
Many of the Exploratorium's collaborative design and activation projects located in the Bay Area are developed by community partners working with the Exploratorium's Studio for Public Spaces. The goal of Studio for Public Spaces projects is to bring the Exploratorium's tradition of active, inquiry-based learning experiences into the public realm through exhibits and environments that encourage play, exploration, creativity, and social connection. Recent projects have included Sound Commons: a Living Innovation Zone in UN Plaza, the Lookmobile, a mobile learning center that travels to San Mateo County libraries, and Buchanan Mall, a city park that runs through a five-block section of San Francisco's Western Addition.
"Public spaces are more than rest-stops and byways between work and home," says Shawn Lani, Senior Artist and Curator at the Exploratorium, and Founding Director of the Exploratorium's Studio for Public Spaces. "They can also become a space for deep contemplation of our relationships to one another, and to the world around us. In working with community partners to design and activate these spaces we find that the result is always most authentic when the design grows out of the needs of the communities who use them. We start with the question, 'why are you here?' and the answers to that question help us arrive at a place that gives rise to self-expression and cultural exchange."
Ciencia Pública: Agua is the rebuilding of a parklet in the Mission neighborhood adjacent to the Buena Vista Horace Mann School. Originally conceived through a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of San Francisco and funded by a three-year National Science Foundation grant, the parklet was destroyed by a texting driver engaged in auto grand theft.
The new iteration of the parklet continues the theme of water and is designed in collaboration with Buena Vista Horace Mann School. The interactive exhibits will explore water efficiency and the Bay Area’s watershed, which is increasingly more important with the state’s drought patterns and climate change. Signage is communicated first in Spanish, then English. Students from the 8th grade Art Seminar will paint and install a mural of the Hetch Hetchy watershed. The parklet will be open to the public in the spring.
Chabot Space & Science Center has partnered with the Exploratorium to expand their outdoor exhibition space in order to accommodate their growing education programs. The new Environmental Education Deck will include twelve exhibits designed in collaboration with the Exploratorium, which range from safe and in-depth observations of the sun to interactive pinhole cameras—all of these exhibits are designed to encourage play and observation of Chabot's celestial and natural settings. The deck also provides a new opportunity to explore Chabot during the day. The deck is currently being installed and there will a ribbon cutting by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf in late March.