Partnerships and Special Projects
The Montshire Museum of Science has forged strong partnerships with other institutions and organizations to develop new exhibits, engage young scientists, and increase access to science education. The Museum collaborates with a variety of organizations to enhance learning opportunities for our visitors and local communities.
Strategic alliances with other museums, community organizations, researchers and educators often require start-up funding from foundation or agency sources. Since its early years, Montshire has been a member of the Association of Science and Technology Centers, an international organization of science centers and museums that share and work to identify best practices in the museum field. More recent collaborations include the Dartmouth-Montshire Institute for Science Education.
The Dartmouth-Montshire Institute for Science Education grew out of informal collaborations between the Museum and the College that stretched back to the Museum’s beginnings. Dartmouth College and the Montshire share a strong commitment to enhance the quality of science education in Vermont and New Hampshire.
Grants and Sponsored Projects
Montshire Museum is recognized as a leader in the field of informal science education. Funding from regional foundations and federal agencies enables the Museum to research, develop, and implement best practices in informal science education, teacher professional development, and K-8 science education. Current projects include the following:
What is Making? Why is it important that students have the chance to Make in school? Making is the creation of physical or digital objects that reflect design thinking, skills, perseverance, and communication skills. It is a natural outgrowth of project-based learning, portfolios, and student-led learning that is changing education. And it’s fun! Students like making things, and they learn about science, engineering, math, technology, and themselves when they have a good prompt, the right tools, support, and time. For Making Spaces, the Montshire teamed up with 6 schools to create a vision for a school Maker Space that is customized to each school’s needs, kick off a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds and community awareness, then create a space or mobile cart for Making. Professional development during the implementation phase will help teachers use the space and help students get the most out of the resources in their Maker Space.
Weaving Strands of Knowledge: Connecting Culture and Science to Climate Change
The Weaving Strands of Knowledge project is an international collaboration collecting personal narratives and folk knowledge of climate change to be woven with climate science to promote conversations in global sustainability issues. The project engages two culturally distinct communities, rural New England and Bhutan, in conversations and knowledge sharing focused on urgent issues of environmental sustainability. An international team of ten university students will collect personal stories of the impact environmental changes are having on people’s lives. They will then co-curate their collection during face-to-face cultural exchange visits and over a virtual platform. This work will help global community members merge scientific data with local narratives of climate change, help university students understand the importance of weaving different knowledge systems to facilitate community-based science learning and conversations, and bring international communities together in through dialogues that enhance our understanding of environmental sustainability in the face of climate change.
Weaving Strands of Knowledge: Connecting Culture and Science to Climate Change is a Museums Connect project. Museums Connect is an initiative of the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that is administered by the American Alliance of Museums.
School Partnerships for Science Education
Five years ago Montshire began a partnership with the Rivendell Interstate School District covering the towns of Vershire, West Fairlee, and Fairlee, Vermont and Orford, New Hampshire. The goal of this partnership was to explore and develop new models for a long-term, sustainable science infrastructure improvement program in a rural district. During the 2011/2012 school year, the Partnership program is being expanded to include Tunbridge Central School, Tunbridge, VT, Barnet Elementary School, in Barnet, VT, Danville School (VT), Peacham Elementary, Peacham, VT, Walden Elementary, Walden, VT, and Lyme School, Lyme, NH. These small, rural schools serve grades K-6 or K-8, and have strong staff and administrations wishing to make science education a priority for their students. Partnership activities include professional development workshops for faculty, curriculum and materials development by Montshire staff to support the K-8 science education goals of each District, and increasing opportunities for meaningful inquiry science experiences for students within the District.
Funding: The School Partnership for Science Education is funded in part by the Donley Foundation and Dorr Foundation.
The Dynamic Earth: You Have to See It to Believe It!
The Earth is a complex system, with myriad processes interacting to create a changing landscape across space and time. The Dynamic Earth: You Have to See It to Believe It is a set of exhibits and programs using NASA images of our home planet to engage visitors in learning about the forces that shape, heat, and cool the earth.
Exhibits range from a slide show of beautiful NASA imagery from its fleet of Earth observing satellites to hands-on pieces which allow visitors to make beautiful sand dune formations. The center piece of the exhibition is the Dynamic Globe - a 30” globe that shows real time weather moving across the planet, or a yearʼs worth of ocean currents and sea temperature changes, or the 2005 hurricane season. From the abstract to the concrete, the exhibition shows the large scale Earth processes which constantly change over time, creating the biotic and abiotic environments at the global, and local level.
Programs developed for this project include workshops and courses for children, families, and adults at the Museum. A new set of school programs and teacher workshops in the geosciences is also being developed that are aimed at the middle school audience. The programs are designed to augment The Dynamic Earth exhibit cluster. Programs include hands-on investigation at the Science Discovery Lab on glaciers, turbulence, and erosion. Investigating Earth from Above is a new adult course on using NASA and NOAA satellite imagery, and a series of presentations for our museum visitors have been developed on weather, plate tectonics, and other areas of earth science.
Funding: Competitive Program for Science Museums and Planetariums award, NASA.
Connecting Classrooms and Community with the Health Sciences
Adolescents face many conflicting messages and influences related to high-risk behavior. Choices confronting middle school students often have the potential for adverse effects on their overall health and well-being. With funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Montshire is developing an educational outreach program, which allows students an opportunity to learn about key health issues in a context that is based on high-quality research and offers hands-on inquiry and self-directed investigations.
This educational outreach program serves students in grades 5-8 in rural Vermont and New Hampshire schools. The project team is creating four health education modules, each one related to current NIH-supported research by faculty at Dartmouth Medical School (DMS). DMS researchers are collaborating with Montshire Museum’s curriculum developers in the project, connecting with students and teachers, and providing support for all aspects of the project. For each module, the project team will support hands-on classroom investigations and independent research using materials, objects and exhibits developed specifically for the program.
Funding: Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA), National Institutes of Health.
Bringing Science and Engineering to Students
Montshire Museum of Science, located in Norwich, Vermont, is collaborating with the US Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) in a series of educational programs designed to increase opportunities for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) learning among Vermont and New Hampshire students in grades K-12. The 2010/2011 Montshire/CRREL K-12 STEM Education Partnership Program includes three different science education activities for students and their families: new programs at the Museum’s Science Discovery Lab; training and placing CRREL scientists and engineers in area after-school programs; and a special event day at the Museum featuring many examples of CRREL research and engineering activities.
Funding: National Defense Education Program through a contract with U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory.
Experimenting with Plants
Experimenting with Plants is a collaborative project between the Museum and plant geneticist Dr. Eric Schaller at Dartmouth College. The Museum is responsible for the outreach education efforts related to Dr. Schaller’s research. The outreach program focuses on four core activities. The first activity supports an experimental biology program for middle school students in Vermont and New Hampshire. This program uses plants to introduce experimental design to 7-8th grade students and their teachers. Students learn to design bioassays for the effects of common chemicals on the germination and growth of rice, radish, Arabidopsis and other plants.
In addition, the Museum’s education department has developed several teacher and student workshops on cells and microscopes. “Introduction to Cells,” a one-hour workshop that takes place in the Museum’s classroom, is designed for students in grades 5-8. Students learn basic staining techniques, observe differences between plant and animal cells, and practice scientific drawing. The third core activity of this outreach program is the delivery of the hands-on family workshop “Cells!”. This workshop takes place in the Museum’s exhibit hall, providing opportunities for the public to explore plant cells and microscopy at the Museum’s Science Discovery Lab.
A fourth outreach activity supported by this research project will be providing a series of teacher workshops and classroom support to introduce plants and plant life cycles in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade classrooms. The project team at the Montshire will work with five elementary schools (three in Vermont, and two in New Hampshire), supporting the implementation of a curriculum unit called “Growing Things”. This six week hands-on science unit will include an introduction to the parts of a plant, plant life cycles, and will introduce experimental design skills to children in grades 1-3.
Funding: Experimenting with Plants is supported through a sub-award with Dartmouth College, funded by the National Science Foundation.
Creating a Science Camp in Rural Schools
This collaborative project between Dartmouth College and Montshire Museum is funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as part of a larger grant to the College’s biology department. The program places Dartmouth undergraduate and graduate students in Rivendell School District classrooms to lead weekly science lessons during the winter term. The program includes training sessions for the Dartmouth ‘HHMI science mentors’ as well as all materials needed for successful classroom lessons. The program is currently creating lessons that align with the current science units being taught in the schools. Approximately 22 Dartmouth students are involved in this outreach effort to 11 different grade 3-8 classrooms.
Funding: Howard Hughes Medical Institute through a sub-award with Dartmouth College.
Building STEM Capacity in Early Childhood Education
The fundamental processes of science learning—observing, exploring, building, sorting, and discovering the world around us—has the potential to lay a foundation for success in the K-12 years and beyond. It is imperative to provide rich science learning experiences for preschool age children. However, there are numerous challenges. Pre-K science instruction is often too minimal to be effective and/or too disengaged from other learning processes to build conceptual understanding. In many cases, childcare centers do not have the financial resources needed for sufficient professional development of their teachers. And, although Montshire Museum has extensive experience with preschool age children, we must continue to build our own capacity to support and provide professional development to our colleagues. This project, funded in thanks to the A.D. Henderson Foundation, begins to address these concerns by providing professional development of early childhood teachers and thoughtful preschool activity development.
Taking Science Outdoors
Northern New England is characterized by rich and diverse habitats. Our fields, woodlands, ponds, and wetlands have the potential to serve as an ideal learning laboratory for K-8 science education. However, the small, rural schools in our region need curriculum materials and support to fully take advantage of these local assets.
The Montshire Museum of Science developed innovative mini-units that engage students in rigorous science investigations outdoors while building the capacity of schools to provide a high-quality science education. This project also advanced Montshire’s School Partnership Initiative by addressing significant needs and exciting opportunities faced by our partner schools. The project included professional development for teachers and new curriculum materials, designed for different grade clusters, that take advantage of our local, natural resources and help teachers meet national standards for science teaching and learning. Teachers have the opportunity to borrow a kit for some units. The K-2 mini-unit kit includes microscopes, field guides, aquatic invertebrate observing tools, and nets. In addition four new student workshops will now be offered at the Montshire for school groups.
This project was generously funded by the Dorr Foundation.