Pacific Science Center Programs
Lake Washington Watershed Internship Program (LWWIP) gives high school students one-of-a-kind opportunities to become informed stewards of their local ecosystem through hands-on learning, mentoring of local elementary students, ecosystem restoration and stream monitoring. Since 1997, LWWIP has inspired passion for environmental stewardship, provided skills to share stewardship concepts with others, and prepared teens for science-related careers. In 2013-2014, a dozen interns also shared their passion and knowledge with elementary students residing in the local watershed.
Discovery Corps is an innovative youth development program for high school students that inspires lifelong interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). During the 2013-2014 fiscal year, 13 new corps members joined the program. At its peak, the program boasted 83 active members from 40 local high schools. Youth worked over 18,000 hours in volunteer and paid positions on Pacific Science Center’s exhibit floor interpreting science concepts for visitors and engaging them in hands-on activities. Additionally, students participated in 43 internships, including onsite positions with a variety of Pacific Science Center departments, offsite positions with the Science Center’s Science On Wheels program, and with external organizations including the University of Washington, where interns conduct research with their science mentors. All 27 graduates of Discovery Corps’ Class of 2014 started college this fall – at MIT, Stanford, Cornell, Columbia, Northwestern, University of Washington, Western Washington University and other outstanding colleges. This fantastic group includes 21 students of color, 16 women, 10 students who speak a language other than English at home and seven first-generation college students. Almost a quarter of the class qualified for free/reduced lunch.
Teen Science Cafés are an outgrowth of a teen-focused Science Café program started in New Mexico now being disseminated nationally to other informal science education organizations through a five-year National Science Foundation grant. Based on the success of our existing Science Cafés as well as our work enhancing the science communication skills of researchers, Pacific Science Center was one of six sites chosen to join the national network. We received three years of funding to test the model here. Teen Science Cafés feature a similar format to our regular Science Cafés (short talk by a local researcher, ample time for Q&A, informal setting) but also include a hands-on component run by teens, exclusively for teens. In 2013-2014, 349 teens participated in Science Cafes, 59 in Seattle and 290 in Redmond.
The Environmental Science and Technology Practicum at Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center is a nine-week program for youth in grades 9-12. Each Practicum session offers in-depth, hands-on aquatic and terrestrial research in the wetland and our state-of-the-art wetlab, as well as the opportunity to learn about careers and educational pathways from professionals in these fields. Students engaged in this program last year explored environmental science, clean technology and associated careers.
Based on the success of the Practicum program, we initiated Environmental Science Pathways for youth in grades 6-8, a weekly after-school program for youth interested in environmental science and clean technology. Last year, youth participating in this eight-week series discovered the science behind renewable energy, watersheds and our natural environment.
In-depth, hand-on experiences provided by these two programs are made possible through The Norcliffe Foundation which provided support for state-of-the-art equipment that gives students the chance to use high-tech tools not readily available elsewhere to middle school or high school students in the Puget Sound region.
The Studio and Portal to Current Research
Our two current research spaces presented four new exhibits in FY14 which showcased the latest in research in the Pacific Northwest. The featured theme and content changes every six months, giving guests an opportunity to learn about new advances in research along with the methods, challenges and opportunities associated with scientific innovation.
Last year in The Studio, we featured Minds and Machines which focused on how the brain works and how local science labs are learning to use brain signals to compensate for injury or lost function. Disease Detectives: West Nile Virus in Washington featured new research at Washington State University and ongoing monitoring at the State Health Department.
The Portal to Current Research space featured Exploring Our Solar System With Local NASA Scientists, highlighting the research of UW's Erika Harnett and Space Science Institute's Josh Bandfield. Dr. Harnett’s research looks at solar storms while Dr. Bandfield’s uses infrared images to map the moon and Mars. The second exhibit, Investigating Arctic Ice Melt, featured UW Polar Science Center researchers Mike Steele, Axel Schweiger, Bonnie Light and Ignatius Rigor. These researchers are helping to piece together the complex interplay between the oceans, sea ice, temperature and the atmosphere.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Washington State LASER (Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform) is an award-winning state science-education program led by Pacific Science Center and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory along with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Educational Service Districts and school districts across Washington. LASER hosts a variety of workshops and other events to help school districts begin their science education reform efforts, and to sustain and build their science and STEM programs.
As Washington continues to adopt Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), it is important for stakeholder groups (principals, superintendents, school board members, professionals in the field, higher education leaders and the public) to understand what the NGSS really means for teachers and students. To that end, LASER hosted three workshops, serving a total of 170 critical stakeholders. In the 2013-2014 fiscal year, 830 teachers participated in LASER Alliance activities and 550 educators and 319 administrators participated in statewide LASER events.
In December 2013, Washington State LASER was recognized for longstanding leadership in education with the esteemed 2013 Golden Apple Award presented by KCTS 9.