Developing a Learning Experience
Posted: Dec 28 2018
Interning at a Museum
Hey SparkFire! I was able to oversee a project from beginning to end over this past summer, while working as an intern at a science museum. The entire experience was extremely valuable for me because I was exposed to so many facets of science education.The main role of an Informal Educator (as my role was called) at Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is to facilitate learning experiences, whether through casual conversation or through structured demonstrations on a topic with the public. The other responsibility for the internship was undertaking an independent project. In Life Lab, where I worked this past summer, there were demonstrations about skeletal and anatomic structures, reaction time, optical illusions and much more. Before starting my internship, I had been brainstorming about possible topics that might be interesting to do a project on. Although I spent a lot of time brainstorming before starting, I was really able to hone in on a focus after spending time in the museum.
There was an existing activity that involved testing visitors’ reaction time. The task is pretty simple: an educator drops a special reaction time stick, very similar to a meter stick except it measures milliseconds, and the visitor has to grab it as quickly as they can. For my project, I wanted to tie in the scientific method and delve a little deeper into some neuroscientific concepts. The museum has an overarching goal to promote scientific thinking and exploration, which is why I wanted to expand on the very simple reaction time activity and pose it through a more experimental framework.
The development process was not an easy feat but, nonetheless, a fantastic learning experience for me. Once I had an idea, I had to write up a concept brief, which was a proposal for what I had in mind. I met with my supervisor about the overall missions and goals for the museum and more specifically in the Natural Science halls. I attended a meeting that focused on formulation of the big idea, which is the message that we want our visitors to take away from an exhibit or demonstration. I received some information on labeling and increasing accessibility, which is important to think about in terms of providing experiences in languages other than English. After having a solid platform in terms of goals and key concepts for the demonstration, I began collecting the supplies I would need. I did experimentation with the materials and laid out the design work for implementation inside the Life Lab. I made display signs and prototypes for the activity.
In the final weeks of my internship, I was out on the floor interacting with visitors and having them do the activity. The beauty of the activity is it could go in various directions based on visitors’ personal experiences. Not only was I able to talk about concepts like attentional blink, inattentional blindness and reaction time, but I also got to hear about visitors’ personal stories relating to the topics.
One thing I have felt has been lacking in my academic curriculum as a college student is a creative component. It is so important for us to imagine and invent, think and re-think -- designing a space and activity in the museum from start to finish gave me that chance to imagine and create. Because of this, I was inspired to apply for a project-based class this semester at Georgia Tech. The course focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) communication through science fairs, exhibits and publications. The course adds the creative component I had been missing in past semesters, and I am thrilled to be a part of the team.
There are many obstacles that women, myself included, face in the world. This summer, I was reminded that I can’t let MYSELF be one of those obstacles. My piece of advice to girls and women everywhere is to never limit your dreams and aspirations, push boundaries and create new ones. Thank you, Portland, for reminding me how great it is to be a trailblazer. As always, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spark it forward!
In the Summer of 2018, college student Siena T. ventured cross-country, from Atlanta Georgia to Portland Oregon, to spread her wings and experience everything from diving into a new internship to explore & focus her academic interests, stepping out to meet new people and explore new places, and reveling in the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, with trails, waterfalls, rivers and more.
This is the 2nd post in the series from Siena, as she shares personal stories about her summer experiences and opens up about learning, growing and adventuring out, both on her own and in community with new friends.