This Week’s Reads: Communicating about Science

Happy Holidays, all! I apologize for my few months of silence, and my excuses include learning a new role at the New England Museum Association, where I am the new Director of Engagement, running an annual conference, and being out of the country on my honeymoon (reflections on traveling in Japan and lessons I gained there for American museums to come!).

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However, I’m back with a set of interesting reads regarding how better to communicate about science topics with self-identified “non-scientists.”  The Discovery Museums in Acton, which was one of the places that gave me my start in the museum field, has a fabulous fellowship program for scientists and engineers, so when I see examples of great science communication I get warm fuzzy feelings all over.

Here are some cool reads about communication, science, and scientists speaking up:

“Talking Evolution: The challenge of influenza” – What does “flu season” mean to you? How much do you know about why you’re supposed to get a new flu shot every winter, and why does it sometimes seem not to work? This is the first post of two talking about the flu, how and why we get sick, the historical context of the 1918 flu epidemic, and how viruses mutate, from the always awesome National Geographic Education blog.

“A massive global study finds girls are comprehensively better than boys at solving problems together” – A fascinating summary of a test that looks at lots and lots of factors to student success and skill building, and which shows the importance of social skills (communication!) in effective problem solving (a key part of science & engineering).

“Helping students communicate science beyond the classroom “- Sounds like an awesome class that other colleges should be using as a model.  And then collaborating with their local museums to provide their students with public speaking experience!

“Why are paleontologists suing the Trump administration?” – Politics + dinosaurs (and a bunch of other really interesting info on national monuments!).  Also an amazing breakdown from the folks at National Geographic Education.

“The Illustrated History of How Sugar Conquered the World” – History and science and social history and medicine and world domination and I’m baking Christmas cookies this weekend anyway.

Museums, be “Brave Spaces”

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When the Museum Education Roundtable had our annual forum last week, featuring Keonna Hendrick and Marit Dewhurst speaking on “Dismantling Racism in Museums,” none of us knew that by this week, the events in Charlottesville and the fallout thereof would be bringing the discussion of racism, not to mention monuments, memorials, history, voice, and tolerance to the national stage.

Hendrick and Dewhurst were recently guest editors of the issue of the Journal of Museum Education, “Identifying and Transforming Racism in Museum Education,” an issue with a number of compelling articles on museums ‘doing the work,’ listening, being better allies, and welcoming voices that have not always been represented. For museum workers interested in being allies and change makers, I highly recommend that issue’s reader guide, which goes along with the free access article.

One of the ideas put forward by Hendrick and Dewhurst in their discussion was that of “brave spaces.” Safe spaces are good, but not enough for real change; to hear criticism, to offer experiences and personal details that make you vulnerable, to be able to move past an internal sense of “not this again” (as listener or as explainer), it takes bravery. To listen without immediately jumping to one’s own defense takes courage. To walk into a room and share your story with a lot of people who might or might not listen to you takes courage. “Listening can be a radical learning tool,” say Hendrick and Dewhust.

Museums aspire to be places of radical learning.  We can be home to bravery, if we acknowledge that as mission-driven institutions, we are also therefore values-driven institutions.

There was a lot of live-tweeting of the MER Forum; I recommend you check out the #MERForum2017 discussion on Twitter if you’re curious, and also keep an eye out for a possible MER blog following up on the forum in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, I’m going to be looking to see where museums are already being brave, doing the work, and offering opportunities for radical learning. I expect there will be some interesting examples on display at the upcoming NEMA Conference, “Truth & Trust: Museums in a Polarized Society.” 

Here are a few other heartening examples to counteract all the crazy currently in the news:

Edited to add a few more great resource compilations!

Webinar recording: “Recharge, Reimagine, and Write!”

If you missed my webinar yesterday on creative writing for museum professionals, you can catch up now with the recording and download a pdf of the slides, available for  free on the NEMA website.  You can also watch it directly below, or just have a look at the slideshow without my narration.

 

Write with me! Creative writing for museum professionals

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I’ve been making something of a habit in my life as a poet/author of writing in museums, leading workshops on writing in museums, and writing about writing in museums. Now I’m leading a free webinar through the New England Museum Association (membership or geographic location in New England not required!) for museum professionals on how taking a creative break in your museum space can re-energize your daily practice.

WHEN:  Wednesday, May 31, 2017, Noon – 1 pm EST
WHAT: Recharge, Reimagine, and Write! Accessing Your Creativity to See Your Museum Differently
WHO:  Meg Winikates, Author/Poet and Museum Educator
FORMAT: Free Webinar

Many of us came to work at museums because we find them inspiring. But in the day-to-day operation of a museum, not to mention the pressures of outside factors and current events, it’s all too easy to fall into patterns, to stop seeing what makes our places special, and to stop feeding that inspirational, creative element of our museum practice.

Join poet, author, and museum educator Meg Winikates (also member of the NEMA staff!) to explore ways to see elements of your museum’s collection in a newly creative light, by writing an ekphrastic poem. Ekphrasis, or the creation of one kind of art inspired by another kind of art, is a natural fit for museums and museum professionals. Discover different methods of creating an ekphrastic piece, how it might translate to your job, and how to encourage similar experiences for your colleagues and your visitors.

This session is for all types of museums and all types of museum professionals. Grab your lunch and bring your imagination!

You can RSVP for the webinar here.

 

Poetry Constructions

A Throwback Thursday favorite for National Poetry Month!

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Poetry works its way into many of my postsNational Poetry Month is one of my favorite times of year, and every year I find something new to get excited about.

This year it’s building blocks and poetry.  Not in the form of stanzas, rhyme schemes or metaphors, but creative ways to inspire, actual physical ways to randomize words, create sequences of ideas, and give poetry a visual heft that matches its presumptive mental and emotional ones.

Shape poems

ee cummings 'i carry your heart' as laid out in Festisite ee cummings ‘i carry your heart’ as laid out in Festisite

I’m not a huge fan of concrete poetry in general, because I’m not always convinced by the whole form/function connection when it comes to text.  However, if you’re looking for a new way to *present* a poem and hand written calligraphy is not your top choice, you might want to try Festisite, which has a handful of pre-selected…

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Calling Museum Educators: Share your brains!

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MERfolk at Museums Advocacy Day 2017: member Lotte Lent, board president Brooke DiGiovanni Evans, and myself. (Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office looks out over a Calder in the atrium, lucky her!)

As a board member for the Museum Education Roundtable, I get to hear about some of the very coolest stuff happening in the world of museums, especially since I’m on the editorial team that works on upcoming issues of the Journal of Museum Education.

My MER colleagues are amazing, and we’re looking for some new folks to help fill out our board! If you’re interested in nominating yourself or someone else, you still have a bit of time to do so: board nominations are due by March 31. You can find out more here. (Our new website launches very soon, so please have patience with the old one, we promise it’s about to be 900% better.)

We’re also looking for short articles that offer new ideas in answer to challenges we all face, from getting teachers to use the pre- or post-visit materials we offer, to figuring out how to evaluate programs, to confronting our own biases and assumptions as educators to be better programmers, exhibit designers, and guides. The call for article ideas is open now, and of course if you have a big idea for an article or theme idea for a journal issue, you can always check out our general call for submissions here. If you’re interested in submitting for the “Familiar Challenges/New Ideas” issue, please submit your idea by March 31. (If your idea fits the theme, the actual writing deadline is later, so you do have time!)

And if you have ideas that are not necessarily education-related, or there’s a museum book you want to review, or a case study in volunteer management you want to share, etc., I am always happy to talk article ideas with you for New England Museums Now, NEMA’s online journal. The open call for submissions for NEMN is here.

 

48 Uses of Dragon’s Blood

I love it when science and myth have one of those wacky intersections. Who said ‘you know all those stories about dragons’ blood? Maybe we should check that out? Let’s write a grant!’

Nat Geo Education Blog

SCIENCE

Mythology is rich with tales of dragons and the magical properties of their blood. Well, a new study indicates that the blood of the Komodo dragon is, in fact, loaded with proteins that could be used as antibiotics. Giant dragon versus superbug. (The Economist)

Why are antibiotics so important these days?

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

Komodo dragons are the largest lizards on Earth, reaching lengths of 3 meters (10 feet) and weighing up to 70 kilograms (150 pounds).
Photograph by Stefano Unterthiner, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

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