Document Type

Internship Report

Publication Date

Fall 2013

Abstract

Interactive, or dialogue-based exhibits are becoming more prominent in science museums (McCallie et al. 2009). As museums start using advanced technology as a teaching medium in interactive exhibitions, visitors can anticipate audio/visual experiences as part of what museum education has to offer. As an ocean education intern for the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), I assisted in the development of the following educational activities meant to inform visitors about themes in ocean science: I.) self-guided microscope activities for an interactive exhibit space Q?rius in NMNH 2.) an open discussion about ocean acidification with high school interns, and 3.) an ocean acidification activity cart to be used in the Sant Ocean Hall by docents and volunteers. This internship at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History was an evaluation of these types of interactive engagement with museum visitors (mainly adolescents), with the ultimate objective of the internship being to gain experience in museum education. The educational activities and programs were assessed largely through volunteer comments and questions, program coordinator evaluations and observations to measure visitor engagement potential. From the three activity/program types, it was detennined that young visitors generally enjoyed interaction and dialogue with scientists and expressed increased levels of interest in scientific careers, particularly those in marine conservation. Further assessment is still needed for all activities, but most importantly for the Q?rius self directed microscope activities in anticipation for the new exhibit space’s public opening date at NMNH. Main recommendations for further pursuit of ocean education programming at NMNH would be to expand technological resources, develop a comprehensive visitor survey format, and evaluate visitor retention of interactive exhibits at this museum in comparison with other museums in the United States.

Comments

Department: MAF

MPS Track: MCO

Location: Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History (Washington, D.C.)

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