Highlights from the 2012 ASTC Conference

November 1st, 2012

Last month, nearly 1,700 museum and science center professionals from around the world convened in Columbus, OH for the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) annual conference. The ASTC conference brings together an extensive spectrum of informal science education practitioners to share innovations, collaborate on new ideas, participate in a diverse selection of sessions, view exciting science demonstrations, and more.

This year, CAISE joined more than 160 exhibitors in the Exhibit Hall, where we had the chance to connect with science center and museum professionals who perform a wide variety of roles in their home institutions. CAISE staff and co-Principal Investigators spent time at the booth sharing information about our current initiatives and projects, links to new and developing resources, such as the ISE Evidence Wiki, InformalCommons, and PI’s Guide to Managing Evaluation in Informal Science Education Projects, and selected publications about informal science education.

The ISE Evidence Wiki made the rounds throughout the conference in the form of a “mobile session.” Volunteers carried iPads and showed attendees how to join the Wiki, contribute to existing articles, and upload their own unique content. CAISE also presented in a session with Time Warner Cable’s Connect a Million Minds Initiative and the Coalition for Science After School to share how the InformalCommons and ISE Evidence Wiki can help out-of-school time practitioners find evaluation tools, activities, research, and other resources that support their work.

A number of themes that arose in conference sessions tie in to initiatives that CAISE is undertaking, and lessons and information learned in those sessions will help us be aware of what the museum and science center field is already doing in those areas. The connection between research and practice was explored in a session titled Research, Evaluation, Practice: Learning from What We Do, where evaluators and researchers reported on how they make their work relevant for practitioners. This topic is currently being explored through the CAISE Practice and Research Initiative, which will bring together practitioners and researchers both online and in-person to share how they might connect their work. Another fully attended double session called How to Integrate Evaluation into Your Project brought together a panel of practitioners who spoke about making evaluation an integral part of their project design, often highlighting content contained in the newly-available PI’s Guide to Managing Evaluation in Informal Science Education Projects.

The 2013 ASTC Conference is in Albuquerque, New Mexico, October 19-22, and will be co-hosted by Explora, the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science.