May 5, 2020Nich Weller, Arizona State University
Sustainability in Science and Technology Museums Fellowship 2019-2020
In January 2020, thirty-four museum professionals from across the NISE Network came to Arizona State University as part of the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability in Science and Technology Museums Fellowship program.
Following their time in Tempe, fellows returned to their organizations to implement a sustainability project. With resources, tools, and relationships developed at the workshop, fellows conducted projects ranging from updating exhibits, planning renovations to their museums, and helping others at their organization understand sustainability. Many fellows continued to work on their projects despite closures and disruptions due to COVID-19. Some even found the opportunity to do more sustainability planning.
Below are highlights from a few projects led by the second cohort of fellows.
Creating sustainability planning tools
Kristen Metzger has worked with her leadership team at Kidspace Children’s Museum in Pasadena, CA, to develop a planning tool for the Programs Department. This tool aligns existing departmental work through the lens of sustainability and acts as a framework for current and future planning. The tool has already been used to scaffold many of the department’s existing long term goals around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, to identify and clarify new goals, and to determine achievable next steps. An unanticipated outcome of this work is how it has helped the team talk about their work in relation to potential funding opportunities.
Bringing sustainability to established exhibits
Matt Jorge from the Children's Creativity Museum is reinvigorating a current museum exhibit by adding a new twist that allows visitors to imagine and create a sustainable city together. The team is adding challenge prompts tied to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals to their existing teamLab augmented reality drawing exhibit called "Sketchtown." Participating in this exhibit is fun and easy: visitors choose a template of a vehicle or building they want to color and draw on, read their randomly selected sustainability challenge card, and create! They can bring their creation to life by scanning their drawings into the virtual world of Sketchtown. The enhancement to this exhibit allows visitors to envision and create a sustainable future that they would want to live in and to explore the structural, social, and environmental sides of sustainability.
Sharing sustainability across an organization
Before attending the fellowship, Maddie Earnest met with directors and other managers at the Saint Louis Science Center (SLSC) where she serves as a Gallery Manager. Collectively, they agreed that participation in the fellowship would serve as a catalyst for larger sustainability efforts at the science center. While at the fellowship, Earnest thought the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could be used as an organizing framework for the museum because they allow a broader definition of sustainability that is open to everyone. Upon her return, she has held professional development presentations with the Education Team, Managers and Directors of the Science and Experience teams. She has also presented to the Senior Staffing team. The response overall has been very positive. Over the next five months, Earnest plans to meet with all employees to introduce the SDGs and get their input on how the science center is already meeting the goals, as well as their ideas about opportunities for additional growth. Funds from the fellowship will be used to join the Saint Louis Green Biz Challenge, which will help the science center advance goals on Climate Action, Responsible Consumption, Clean Energy and Life on Land.
Cohort A Fellow highlight
Read more about Fellows’ projects from Cohort A at
Kasi Gaarenstroom of the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, WA has created a sustainability-themed online film series called, "Good Planets are Hard to Find," with each film touching on a different environmental theme. In addition to film screenings, the series includes programs and speakers.
Check out the last two films in this five-part series, hosted online in May and June, and register to attend these free showings:
Monday, May 18, 2020
- Planet of the Apes (1968)
Monday, June 15, 2020
Interested in learning more?
- Learn more about the Sustainability in Science and Technology Museums project: https://www.nisenet.org/sustainability
- View recordings and download resources from the spring 2020 Sustainability in Science Museums Online Workshop Series:
- Sustainability in Museums Around the World: Working Together to Create a Sustainable Future
- Sustainability and Museum Operations: Practices, Partnerships, and Resources to Help Your Organization Become More Sustainable
- Sustainability and Museum Visitors: Exhibits, Programs, and Other Ways to Engage the Public
- You can also view and download activities and resources used in the fellowship program, including a video highlighting the Sustainability Fellowship program, program overview documents, handouts and resources, slides and online workshop recordings.
The Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability in Science and Technology Museums program is supported through funding from The Rob and Melani Walton Foundation.