Take seven educational facilities, pair them up with the National Science Foundation, and what do you get? TEAMS of course! That is Traveling Exhibitions At Museums of Science. For the past two years, the National Science Foundation has worked with seven science museums nationwide to fabricate some of the most intriguing traveling exhibitions imaginable. Two of these museums are the Discovery Center Museum of Rockford, IL, and the Family Museum of Bettendorf, IA. These institutions partnered up to create a fascinating exhibition dedicated to immersing visitors in an exhibition focused on communication. This exhibition is entitled, Get The Message, and it opens its national tour during the spring of 2007!
Get The Message is an exhibition that deepens familiar concepts and the scientific principles associated with communication. Methods of sending and receiving ideas, information and messages are an essential aspect of being alive. Familiar yet novel content will enhance the learning experiences throughout this exhibit. Components with open-ended phenomenon will create the hook necessary to keep visitors wondering and hungry for more information. Get The Message will present questions to visitors that provoke further inquiry about the scientific principles necessary in communication.
Front End Evaluation and Other Influences on Exhibition Development
The front-end evaluation process undertaken and the ultimate decision to develop the ideas for Get The Message utilized techniques learned and perfected through the TEAMS II experience. TEAMS II protocol called for developing exhibit ideas and attaching educational benchmarks after the ideas were jelled. In the front-end evaluation stage for TEAMS III, that protocol was reversed with the benchmarks playing a more direct role in the development of exhibition subject and themes.
As a result, the DCM/FM collaborative initially considered three exhibition topics and tested what were originally thought to be the best two. However, through surveying and question and answer sessions, the partnership learned that both were attractive topics to visitors and teachers, yet they lacked strong enough science content to pursue for a 1,500 square foot exhibition. Based on this first set of front-end evaluations and the outcomes, the partnership opted to move on and reconsider the third exhibit topic, communication.
A second round of surveying commenced and ideas were generated based on the topic of communication. In both markets (Rockford and Bettendorf), surveys were conducted among 48 individuals, which included 31 white females, 11 white males, 2 Asian males, 2 Native American females, 1 Hispanic Male and 1 Hispanic Female. The survey results not only proved the need for such an exhibit, it proved that visitors were intrigued by the potential of learning about the science behind communication. The visitors surveyed were most interested in learning about different modes of communication, the evolution of modern communication tools and most importantly, many visitors emphasized the importance of open-ended content that would challenge their child’s thought process.
Both Rockford and Bettendorf researched the field of communication in traveling exhibitions. They found that worldwide, there was only one other exhibition (in Denmark), that even came close to providing a hands-on exhibition for children and families on the topic of communication, and did not find any exhibitions relating specifically to the topic of communication being presented or having recently traveled to any of the 400+ member institutions of ACM. Therefore, this topic proved to have the most potential for open-ended inquiry and was very intriguing as the basis for an exhibition. After a second round of surveying (this survey specific to communication), communication became the topic with the most merit and Get The Message was born.
Based on this review, the partnership concluded the topic of communication would certainly have the potential to support a number of elements highlighted in the Benchmarks for Science Literacy, and at the conclusion of the front-end evaluation, four general themes emerged within the over-all topic of communication: a) Language, its history and development; b) Non-verbal methods of communication; c) Mass-communication; and 4) Mathematics and patterns used in communication.
The work of the TEAMS collaboration has been and will be monitored by Inverness Research Associates of Inverness, CA. This company has assisted the seven museums in producing exhibits that support school curriculums and standards. Through on-site visits and careful review of design plans, Inverness Research Associates kept the collaborative on task and has made sure to provide professional insight to make the TEAMS III collaboration a success.
Funding was provided through and TEAMS III grant by the National Science Foundation. Get The Message is sure to bring fun, fascination and fact to everyone who accepts the challenges it poses. For further information on this exhibition, contact Ann Marie Walker at the Discovery Center at 815-963-6769, or Jeff Reiter at the Family Museum at 563-344-4168.