The Montshire Museum of Science is an interactive science center in Norwich, Vermont, with more than 150 hands-on exhibits relating to the natural and physical sciences, ecology, and technology. Outdoors, visitors can explore nature trails and exhibits on wind, water, and sound in David Goudy Science Park. Visiting exhibitions, educational programs, and special events are offered throughout the year.
Montshire Museum of Science to work with Bhutan on climate change education
Joined by University of New Hampshire professor Sameer Honwad, the two planned an international exchange that will see Bhutanese and United States college students collecting personal stories about climate change to pioneer new methods to help people understand our impact on our environment. The project is part of the Museums Connectsm program, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that is administered by the American Alliance of Museums.
Bhutan, one of the smallest countries in the world and situated in the eastern Himalayas, is noted for both its policies of gross national happiness and environmentalism. Bordering India and China, the country has seen the effects of climate change first hand, and offers examples of how a community might address issues of sustainability.
Titled Weaving Strands of Knowledge: Connecting Culture and Science to Climate Change, the Montshire will partner with the Folk Heritage Museum located in Thimphu, Bhutan to record stories of how climate change is personally affecting residents of the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire, and Bhutan. To broaden the project’s reach, the Montshire has partnered with the University of New Hampshire and the Folk Heritage Museum in Bhutan, which is administrated by the Tarayana Cultural Foundation and will partner with Royal Thimphu College.
As part of Museums Connect, six grants with 12 museum partners for 2016 were announced this year. Museums Connect pairs museums and local communities in the United States and abroad for cross-cultural exchanges that bring people, especially youth, together.
“This is a program unlike any other,” said Alliance President and CEO Laura Lott. “Museums Connect projects create global citizens and foster deep relationships between American and global communities.”
A key issue with education surrounding environmental sustainability and climate change is that even those that are knowledgeable about the scientific data struggle to communicate the impacts on everyday lives. A focus of the Montshire and Folk Heritage Museum’s project will be to seek new ways to help people understand the impact of climate change on a personal level. The project partners believe that weaving personal stories and current climate research is an important first step.
“Making science relevant is at the heart of what we do,” explains Montshire’s executive director Marcos Stafne. “Using personal stories and narratives to connect people to science helps develop a deeper layer of meaning and engagement with the world around them.”
College students, professors, and museum staff from Bhutan will visit the United States for interviews with community members in New Hampshire and Vermont. Similar visits are planned for UNH students, faculty, and Montshire Museum of Science staff in Bhutan. Students in each country will record stories of environmental change as observed by the community members, and then share these stories through public outreach and programming at each museum.
The project will culminate with two full-day environmental sustainability awareness festivals (one at each museum) using the personal narratives collected to stimulate conversations at the local, regional and global level.
“This as an important way not only to help international communities discuss common issues of science and technology, but to help us better understand how to weave personal experiences and stories together with the science of climate change to promote conversation and collective action,” says DeFrancis. “Everyone involved is really excited about this work. We also expect to use these stories in future work at the Montshire and with partners around the country.”
About the Montshire Museum of Science
The Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, Vermont, is a hands-on interactive science center with more than 140 exhibits on nature, technology, astronomy, and the physical sciences. Visiting exhibitions, educational programs, and special events are offered throughout the year. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
About Museums Connect: Building Global Communities
The Museums Connect program strengthens connections and cultural understanding between people in the United States and abroad through innovative projects facilitated by museums and executed by their communities. The program’s mission is to build global communities through cross-cultural exchanges while also supporting U.S. foreign policy goals, such as youth empowerment, environmental sustainability and disability rights awareness. Museums ConnectSM is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is administered by the American Alliance of Museums.