SCIENCE CENTER EXHIBIT AND PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT
Creating opportunities for hands-on, engaging science learning experiences for visitors of all ages.
Partner Organization: Science Center of Iowa
School librarians, space nerds, families, and lifelong learners are just a few of the many groups of Iowans that the Science Center of Iowa seeks to inspire and serve through programs, exhibitions, festivals, professional development and more.
Serving such a wide range of audiences, each of whom is looking for something different in their science center experience, requires a unique staff with many different skill sets. I began supporting Iowans on their science learning journeys as a Maker in Residence, developing and delivering STEAM focused programming and workshops for visitors, campers, and special events. After the position ended, I left to work at an educational software company, but was drawn back to the Science Center after a while to work with the exhibits and education teams on developing a wide variety of learning experiences.
My background in design and scientific communication made me a natural fit for assisting with the redesign of the space science-focused experience platform "Why The Sky". My primary role in this revamping of the space was to redesign existing labels and create new infographics and posters to support the new content and artifacts being added to the space. I worked with a senior exhibit designer, building off of the design guidelines he had already established to create a cohesive visual language for the labels and posters in the space.
Supporting Making STEM Connections, a program which aims to bring Maker technologies and Maker education to classrooms all over Iowa was another large portion of the work I did at the Science Center. Coding and electronics are still fairly unfamiliar and even intimidating to many of the teachers this program serves. Each teacher in this program received a Hummingbird robotics kit. However, we learned that some teachers wanted more support in learning how to use this technology and learning how to integrate it into their classrooms.
The Director of Innovative STEM Learning and I co-developed a Hummingbird robotics workshop that was focused on building educator confidence in coding, electronics, and classroom integration.
As an example for educators in this workshop, I created an interactive physical depiction of the lifecycle of a monarch butterfly using the Hummingbird robotics kit. Lifecycles are commonly taught at a variety of grade levels and can be aligned with education standards such as NGSS.
This interaction was created to show educators how components like motors and LED lights can tell stories and communicate knowledge. For many of the educators in attendance, seeing this example sparked ideas about how they and their students might use the kit to communicate information related to their own subjects and classroom content.
The Science Center of Iowa has an attached preschool which I spent time in as a substitute teacher and teaching assistant. Additionally, I prototyped activities with the preschoolers and facilitated technology enhanced learning experiences in their classrooms. One project which was first prototyped with Science Center preschoolers and then delivered as an outreach program at a school in rural central Iowa focused on augmenting Little Bits so that they could be used in combination with craft materials.
I adapted and created new 3D printed accessories for Little Bits so that they could be attached to cardboard, combined with popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners, or transformed from connected blocks to playful creations.
The preschoolers enjoyed adding wheels to their Little Bits creations and making them move. The participants in the outreach program, which featured a cardboard build before tinkering with Little Bits, built doorbells for their forts and augmented a cardboard horse barn with lights and buzzers.