Partner Highlight: A “viaje” (journey) to remember: A foundation of trust built between Adventure Science Center and Conexión Américas inspires Nano Family Science Event

Kayla Berry, Musuem of Science and Larry Dunlap-Berg, Adventure Science Center

The Adventure Science Center, located in Nashville, Tennessee, is a premier attraction and learning center for visitors throughout Middle Tennessee and lives its mission to "ignite curiosity and inspire the lifelong discovery of science!" Learning does not solely take place inside the science center’s walls, it extends well beyond them and in many different forms.

As a 2015 NISE Net Mini-Grant recipient, Adventure Science Center was able to leverage an established relationship with a local community organization, Conexión Américas, whose mission is to assist Latino families through programs that focus on social, economic and civic integration. Larry Dunlap-Berg, Adventure Science Center’s Community Engagement Science Educator, has been leading outreach efforts with Conexión Américas for the past several years, including providing STEM programming to children while their parents attend Parents as Partners classes. Having built a relationship with Conexión Américas and through these interactions with Latino families within their community, Adventure Science Center was able to establish trust, a key component to any successful museum and local community organization collaboration.

To celebrate the adults completing their courses from Conexión Américas, Adventure Science Center organized a Family Science Event in collaboration with Conexión Américas around nanoscale science, engineering and technology topics, which was supported through funding by their mini-grant award. As part of this outreach, Dunlap-Berg and his colleagues also participated in NISE Net’s 2015 Team-Based Inquiry (TBI) Cohort, a professional development opportunity empowering education professionals to improve their own products and practices through an ongoing cycle of inquiry. To determine which NanoDays kit activities would be best suited and adaptable for short, hands-on activities for a series of Nano Family Science Events, Adventure Science Center worked closely with a range of students in the community. Graduate students from the Vanderbilt Materials Research Society (some of which have volunteered during past NanoDays events) helped to identify 14 activities to evaluate for potential use at the family events.  Students from Conexión Américas’ Estudiantes Learning Diversión! program at Wright Middle Prep then provided valuable insight on which activities they felt worked best for them as well as for younger audiences.

Through hosting the Nano Family Science Event at Casa Azafrán, Conexión Américas’ community center, Adventure Science Center was able to make their family event inviting and engaging for their Latino audience. During their "viaje" ("journey"), families wandered through 10 nano-themed stations made up of several hands-on activities to reinforce concepts, which were facilitated by the Vanderbilt Materials Research Society and students involved in Escalera, Conexión Américas’ internship program at Glen Cliff High School. All table-top and other signs were in Spanish and over the course of the event facilitators and families discussed nano topics in both Spanish and English.

NISE Net’s Exploring Size - Moving Molecules, an activity recommended by Vanderbilt students, was found to be one of the most engaging hands-on activities by families at the Nano Family Science Event attended by nearly 100 people.

With the completion of such a well-received and successful Nano Family Science Event, both Adventure Science Center and Conexión Américas hope to collaborate on another family science event in the future, with the exciting possibility of partnering with an afterschool program that has relationships established with both organizations and can help to reach new audiences.

If you’re interested in learning more about this science center-community partnership and the Nano Family Science Event, or other family science events hosted at local middle schools, please contact Larry Dunlap-Berg at ldunlap-berg@adventuresci.org. For more about Adventure Science Center, visit http://www.adventuresci.org/.

And if you’re thinking about ways to engage underserved audiences in your community in nano, learn how the Museum & Community Partnerships project and Explore Science Kit can help to facilitate those collaborations.