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Montshire Museum Receives $492,704 Grant from NASA

Jun 16, 2009
For Immediate Release

NORWICH, Vermont, June 16, 2009. The Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, Vermont, has received a five-year National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) grant worth $492,704. The Museum was one of only 13 selected from a highly competitive field of institutions nationwide submitting proposals to NASA's Competitive Program for Science Museums and Planetariums. The Montshire is the only institution in New England to be awarded funding through this grant program.

Montshire's program, The Dynamic Earth: You Have to See It to Believe It! will enable the Museum to develop of a variety of educational exhibits and programs using NASA images of our home planet to engage visitors in learning about the forces that shape and change the Earth, both natural and manmade.

"There is a real need, perhaps now more than ever, to provide museum exhibits and programming aimed at increasing the public's understanding of science in general, and Earth processes in particular," says Brian Dade, Associate Professor of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth College and an advisor to the project.

The Earth is a complex system, with myriad processes interacting to create a changing landscape across space and time. The key focus of The Dynamic Earth is to further the public's understanding of the processes that shape our global environment. Examples of these dynamic processes include delta formation at the mouths of rivers, seasonal changes of ocean surface temperatures and ocean currents, and changing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and long-term climate change.

"This important grant will allow the Montshire to develop specific exhibitions and program activities using NASA's satellite imagery," explains Greg DeFrancis, director of education at the Montshire Museum of Science. "NASA's suite of Earth observing satellites and its 30-plus year history of collecting Earth imagery can now be used to visualize changes at a planetary-scale only dreamed of just a few years ago," comments DeFrancis. "By incorporating these images into programs and activities, we will engage Museum visitors in understanding how natural and human-influenced processes interact with each other to form our physical and living environment."

"Vermont and the Upper Connecticut Valley are incredibly fortunate to have a science center that is able to successfully compete for grant funding at a national level. With this NASA award, the Montshire Museum continues to demonstrate that it is one of the best science centers in the country. It enriches our region," said U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

Students, teachers, families and adults will all benefit from the integration of the new educational programs with a series of exhibits and theater programs designed to illuminate the Earth's systems and phenomena.

The Montshire will present a cluster of exhibits highlighting the changes of the Earth's surface and how we view it. These exhibits will include Planetary Landscapes: Sculpting the Solar System and Windows on Earth. A new virtual video globe exhibit will show animations of atmospheric and ocean processes projected on a globe.

Programs developed under the umbrella of this grant will include exhibit hall demonstrations, hands-on family activities, teacher professional development, adult lectures, and classroom workshops.

In addition, the Montshire will develop and pilot ancillary exhibit interpretation materials aimed specifically at the Grade 4-9 audience. "For this constituency, our goal is to create more meaningful field trip experiences that help teachers and students meet the learning goals of their Earth Science curriculum," DeFrancis remarks.

Montshire Museum's grant project will benefit from collaboration with Dartmouth College scientists from the departments of Physics and Astronomy, and Geology; and climate researchers at the U.S Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, NH. The Montshire also will partner with colleagues at the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, California, to develop two new multimedia presentations using the Science Theater Educational Programming System (STEPS). In addition, Museum staff will work with the Goddard Space Flight Center's Scientific Visualization Studio to use imagery and animations in the exhibit components and theater programs developed for this project.

The first elements of programming will be introduced to the public during the winter of 2010. At the conclusion of the five-year grant period, the Montshire will have created a comprehensive Earth science program that helps Museum audiences better understand our global environment. This initiative will reach thousands of school children and hundreds of thousands of Museum visitors and will result in a broader awareness of NASA's contributions to Earth science.

"The Montshire Museum has long been a valuable educational resource for the Upper Valley and beyond," Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont said. "I'm thrilled they have earned this much-deserved grant, which will help them further their mission of educating and inspiring Vermonters of all ages."

Proposals to NASA's grant program were selected through a merit-based, external peer-review process. NASA's Office of Education and mission directorates collaborated to solicit and review the grant applications. This integrated approach distinguishes NASA's investment in informal education. NASA received proposals from 32 states and the District of Columbia. "The generosity of Montshire's constituents makes it possible for the Museum to compete on a national scale for grants like this one. Contributions to Montshire's operations work side-by-side with specifically designated grants such as this to provide the best possible experiences and services to our constituents," remarks Montshire Museum Director David Goudy.