About Programs and Activities

Programs and activities provide educational experiences in a variety of contexts such as informal science education settings, formal education K-12 classrooms, and public outreach events. Most activities are designed to be facilitated by an educator.

Programs and ActivitiesPowers of Ten game

The NISE Network offers a variety of programs and activities designed for small and large groups in different settings. Educational programs are a great way to introduce audiences to nanoscale science, engineering, and technology. Presenters can choose a format and topic that is appropriate for their audience. Facilitated experiences foster visitor conversation and interaction, and allow educators to adjust the science content, pace, and delivery style to suit their audience.

NISE Net programs are fully documented, with complete lesson plans or activity guides, presentation materials, and other training and delivery tools. They are ready to use, and can also be easily adapted. The programs created by the NISE Network were developed through a process of prototyping, audience evaluation research, educator peer review, and in-depth partnerships with scientists. Learn more about the development process.

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Short Activitiessand plants pants short activity

Short activities are brief hands-on experiences lasting less than 15 minutes for small groups of people. They are often presented at a table, cart, or demonstration space in a variety of settings such as a museum exhibit gallery, classroom, or other public or group setting. Multiple short activities can be combined to form a longer activity.

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Long Activitieslonger program stained glass

Long activities include workshops, labs, and lessons for student and public groups. They are typically presented in a dedicated classroom or lab space. Length of time can vary from 45 minutes for an elementary field trip or classroom program to several hours or days for labs, summer camps, and other program formats.

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Forums manual cover


Forums encourage audience consideration of the societal and ethical implications of science and technology topics. Older youth and adults participate in one- to two-hour facilitated discussions that promote exploration and foster dialogue and deliberation. Forums can take place in a variety of contexts, including science museums, libraries, community centers, and schools.

The promise of nanoscale science is that it will dramatically improve our lives, bringing great advances in applications as diverse as medicine, energy, electrical and chemical engineering, and materials. At the same time, nanotechnology’s potential negative impacts also touch on a broad range of societal concerns—environmental pollution, toxicity, the prospects of artificial life, and privacy violations. There is a middle ground between scientific boosterism and extreme rejection of these new technologies. Open deliberation can help steer the public conversation toward this more thoughtful, considered middle ground.

Around the world, science centers are exploring new models for engaging adults and older youth in dialog and deliberation about the societal implications of technology. This democratization of public policy deliberation is a strategy for stimulating learning by both scientists and the public and for revitalizing the role of science museums in the life of the nation. These efforts lay the groundwork for an exciting new role for science centers as a bridge between scientists and the public.

NISE Network partners have worked together to research, develop, and test a variety of program models aimed at engaging adults and older youth with in-depth informal educational experiences that incorporate dialog and deliberation around societal implications of nanoscale science, engineering, and technology. This team has developed a set of materials and expertise to share with the broader science museum community to build capacity in the field to engage the public in this kind of programming.

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  • All Forums
  • Public Forums Manual A guide on designing and planning forums.
  • Risks, Benefits and Who Decides? This forum asks participants to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of three options.
  • Energy Challenges, Nanotech Solutions? This forum places participants in the role of a governmental funding agency and asks them to consider how nanotechnology should fit into the timeline and scope of future national energy policy
  • Nanomedicine in Healthcare This forum explores nanotechnology-enabled medical technologies and their potential to transform health care, while considering the societal, ethical, environmental and economic impacts of this emerging technology.
  • Privacy. Civil Liberties. Nanotechnology. This forum asks participants to consider and discuss several nanotechnology application scenarios and the possible opportunities, impacts, risks, and benefits.
  • Cognitive Enhancement Teen Role Play Forum: This forum plays on very real concerns and fears of students: academic performance and taking standardized tests.
  • Same Sides and Let's Talk About It: This 50-minute program includes an introduction to the nano-scale science, conversation time for the participants and 2 ten-minute plays that stimulate conversation about the impact the field of nanoscale science may have on our lives. The plays have also been performed individually as part of forums.

Science Cafésperson speaking with microphone

A Science Café is an event that brings scientists and the public together in an informal setting like a restaurant, pub, or coffee shop. Science Cafés are happening all over the world and have many different formats. Some are lectures with audience-guided questions and answers, some have a moderated discussion between the scientist and the audience, and some focus more on round-table discussions.

Whether you are looking for a science café near you, are interested in organizing a science café, or are just plain curious, you’ll find everything you need to know about science cafés on this site: sciencecafes.org

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  • Science Cafe Guide: Guide to hosting an event that brings scientists and the public together in an informal setting.


Theater and Stage Presentationsactors in same sides lets talk play

Science theater includes theatrical plays and other scripted performances for a large group of people. Stage presentations are public programs that typically last up to 20 minutes, and are often delivered in a dedicated presentation area or stage.

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K-12 Lesson Planseducator with children

K-12 lesson plans for kindergarten-12th grade students include classroom activities, workshops, labs, and lessons for student groups. They are typically presented in a dedicated classroom or lab space. Length of time can vary from 45 minutes for an elementary field trip program to several hours or days for labs and longer experiences.

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