The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced this week a three-year, $1.6-million grant to the Science & Technology Interactive Center (SciTech) in Aurora, Illinois, to disseminate a traveling exhibition, "Midwestern Wild Weather." The project is intended to reach audiences in small and rural communities and the science centers and museums in the states of Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Michigan.
This project will replicate five of a set of nine interactive exhibits on the topic of destructive weather that is prevalent in the Midwest. This exhibition is being produced in collaboration with SPARC (Springfield, Peoria, Aurora, Rockford and Carbondale, Illinois) and represents a strong model for collaboration between museums, science centers and the formal educational system. The SPARC Collaboration developed this program of traveling exhibits, demonstrations, and teacher materials under a major grant from the Illinois State Board of Education, Center on Science Literacy.
Founding Director of SciTech Ernest Malamud said, "Weather is a topic that affects and interests everyone, and through it we can teach principles of science and mathematics. Students will calculate dew point and learn how Doppler Radar is used to track a tornado. They will learn about the water cycle, air pressure and how snow fences work. The 'Thunder and Lightning' exhibit dramatically demonstrates the difference between the speed of light and the speed of sound and how electric charge builds up in a cloud. Students will begin to realize how much science is in things around them."
An innovative feature of this project design is the use of "attractor" exhibits to entice persons to come to the museum or science center. The project also delivers a set of exhibits to a school to set up a "Museum in a School" for one week, reaching 4th- through 8th-grade students. This collaboration of nine museums expects to serve over 79,000 children and 2,640 teachers. The teachers whose classes use the exhibits will receive additional training and hands-on activities for the classroom.
"This unique effort promises to effectively educate the rural Midwest public about the fundamental science underlying wild weather and disseminate to them practical information and facts of wild weather," said James Oglesby, program director for science literacy and informal science education at NSF.
"This project has the potential to fill the real need of making available quality exhibits to small museums and bringing informal education resources to small/rural communities," said project director Olivia Diaz at the Science & Technology Interactive Center.
The grant was awarded by NSF's Informal Science Education program and continues through early 2002.
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