ENERGY-NET (Energy, Environment and Society Learning Network): Best Practices to Enhance Informal Geoscience Learning

Friday, 19 December 2014
Robert Rossi1, Emily M. Elliott1, Daniel Bain1, Kevin J Crowley2, Mary Ann Steiner3, Marion T Divers1, Kristina G Hopkins1, Laurie Giarratani3 and Michelle E Gilmore1,3, (1)University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Campus, Pittsburgh, PA, United States, (2)University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out of School Environments, Pittsburgh, PA, United States, (3)Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Center for Lifelong Learning, Pittsburgh, PA, United States
While energy links all living and non-living systems, the integration of energy, the environment, and society is often not clearly represented in 9 – 12 classrooms and informal learning venues. However, objective public learning that integrates these components is essential for improving public environmental literacy. ENERGY-NET (Energy, Environment and Society Learning Network) is a National Science Foundation funded initiative that uses an Earth Systems Science framework to guide experimental learning for high school students and to improve public learning opportunities regarding the energy-environment-society nexus in a Museum setting. One of the primary objectives of the ENERGY-NET project is to develop a rich set of experimental learning activities that are presented as exhibits at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (USA). Here we detail the evolution of the ENERGY-NET exhibit building process and the subsequent evolution of exhibit content over the past three years. While preliminary plans included the development of five “exploration stations” (i.e., traveling activity carts) per calendar year, the opportunity arose to create a single, larger topical exhibit per semester, which was assumed to have a greater impact on museum visitors. Evaluative assessments conducted to date reveal important practices to be incorporated into ongoing exhibit development: 1) Undergraduate mentors and teen exhibit developers should receive additional content training to allow richer exhibit materials. 2) The development process should be distributed over as long a time period as possible and emphasize iteration. This project can serve as a model for other collaborations between geoscience departments and museums. In particular, these practices may streamline development of public presentations and increase the effectiveness of experimental learning activities.