Updated: Apr 28
Most people have been to museums as kids, or take their kids now, but is any meaningful learning actually going on?
The answer is yes, though learning can take many forms. “Hands-on learning” is often thought of solely for young children, though all age groups benefit from such practices. The informal learning and discovery education techniques used by science museums more closely mirror organic learning, in contrast to structured classroom learning. Exhibits and special programs allow patrons to see only what they are interested in, and go as in-depth as they like. This way, everyone leaves the museum with something, though that takeaway is different for everyone.
Organic and hands-on learning can take difficult concepts such as how dinosaurs became extinct, and boil them down into more meaningful ones. This in turn sparks greater interest in learning about everything from oceans, to volcanoes to the rise of mammals.
Taking an interest in the world around us and its history is one of the most meaningful ways to create advocates for the earth’s future. In order to slow down the manmade effects of global warming, people need a greater understanding of why it matters so much. While science museums and nature centers are often only step-one of this journey, they are a critical one. In order to foster a community of advocates, we need to in turn advocate for this important resource.
While the most important way to drum up support for a museum is to patronize it frequently (most offer year-long passes), it is also important to use its learning resources and encourage others--even whole communities--to do the same. Some keys ways to do this include:
Supporting the museum’s community efforts. Most museums are plugged into their local communities and habitats, through conservancy efforts in local parks and nature centers, summer programs and more. Advocating for science in your community may be as simple as going for a hike!
Utilizing museum resources. Most science museums offer resources and curriculums for parents and teachers, as well as research guides and professional development for adults. If you left your science museum with a newfound interest in weather patterns, it is likely that your museum will have online resources you can check out.
Paying attention to research. Science museums have teams of local scientists and researchers working behind the scenes to move science forward and develop new exhibits for the public. Museums are important not only to celebrate science but to grow the body of work. Being an advocate for your museum means being an advocate for scientific discovery.
Following the money. Learn how your science center is funded, whether publicly or privately, and learn how you can make an impact. This can include donating and setting up fundraisers, or calling local elected officials and school boards to press for an increase in funding for science programs.
Supporting the museum’s community efforts. Most museums are plugged in to their local communities and habitats, through conservancy efforts in local parks and nature centers, summer programs and more. Advocating for science in your community may be as simple as going for a hike!
Organic and hands-on learning can take difficult concepts such as how dinosaurs became extinct, and boil them down into more meaningful ones. This, in turn, sparks a greater interest in learning about everything from oceans to volcanoes to the rise of mammals.
Catherine is an avid supporter of environmentalism and sustainability at home and worldwide. She earned her bachelor's in political science and journalism, and loves to explore how social issues are shaped by law and politics. When she's not blogging for the Tangency Foundation, Catherine works in communications and public relations at a large, national law firm. You can find her on Twitter at @Catherine_Stolz.