Partner Highlight: Using the Explore Science: Earth and Space toolkit to Mobilize Staff Training of Hands On Programming Experiences at The Discovery in Reno, Nevada

By: Meghan Schiedel, The Discovery
The Discovery

The Discovery, located in Reno, Nevada, sees an average of 700 visitors a day during spring break! As a recipient of the 2017 Explore Science: Earth & Space toolkit, The Discovery is advertising this valuable space programming with the hope of promoting greater visitation to the museum during this two week period.

Receiving this toolkit provides The Discovery many great opportunities to engage our museum visitors in Earth and space content, both on the museum floor and through take-home activities. One of the easiest connections we were able to make to the Explore Science: Earth & Space programming is to merchandise in the gift store, which encourages visitors to take their excitement and curiosity for learning about Earth and space topics outside the museum and home with them through hands-on space-themed activities.

A second advantage of receiving the toolkit has allowed The Discovery to provide professional development training to staff who facilitate the hands-on activities on the museum floor. Due to space and staffing constraints, The Discovery has been without open programming on the floor for over a year and one of our biggest challenges is creating staff confidence in how to facilitate these type of visitor experiences. "Open programming" is included in museum admission, which allows visitors of all ages to enjoy facilitated hands-on activities with staff members on the museum floor so training staff on facilitation techniques and science content to help increase their confidence in activity facilitation is important.

For this training, which utilized the Earth & Space toolkit, we scheduled floor programming that was led by a veteran full time staff member from the education team along with an hourly floor staff member. We cycled through all hourly staff on the museum’s team so that each of them spent at least an hour watching and observing experienced staff model a variety of activities with ideal interactions for leading hands-on activities and facilitation of difficult concepts. After watching modeled interactions the roles were reversed and hourly staff tried their hand at facilitation of the Earth & Space toolkit activities while veteran staff watched and then provided coaching and feedback afterwards.

Our team felt that this programming was perfect for leading this type of professional development training to our hourly staff because the activities are so well developed and the facilitation guides are so helpful!

We used a few other resources from NISE Net for this training experience. The first was the tip sheet for leading hands-on activities that was provided to each staff member. The second resource we used were some of the elements of Team-Based Inquiry (TBI), which provides a practical approach to empowering education professionals to improve their own products and practices. Although we did not complete the full TBI process, we focused on reflection and the way in which feedback is given to help improve staff members’ facilitation processes. The Team-Based Inquiry observation sheet also proved to be very helpful as it allows new staff to think about the way they interact with visitors. The links to these resources can be found below.

We look forward to continuing to practice these skills and working to increase staff confidence in hands-on facilitation by bringing the toolkits out onto the museum floor over the next few months and providing our visitors with open programming on Earth and space topics.

For questions about The Discovery’s use of the Explore Science: Earth & Space toolkit for professional development training, please contact Meghan Schiedel, Curriculum Developer, at [email protected]