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Newsletter: June 2017

Welcome to the monthly e-newsletter for the National Informal STEM Education (NISE) Network and community.


  • Community News: Explore Science: Earth & Space event reports due June 15th
  • Upcoming Events and Opportunities: Upcoming Online Workshops, 2017 Science Showcase video contest, Upcoming VSA 2017 and ASTC 2017 Conferences
  • Partner Highlights: Using the Explore Science: Earth and Space Toolkit to bring Astronomy "Down to Earth" at the Robinson Nature Center in Howard County, Maryland
  • Featured on the Website: Butterfly resources for programs and exhibits, ACM 2017 Resources
  • Science in the News: NASA mission to the sun's atmosphere launches in 2018, First synthetic retina created, Resuable 'oleo sponge' could change the way we deal with oil spills
  • STEM Throughout the Year: NISE Net's ideas for incorporating current science, engineering, and technology into holidays, seasons, annual events, and special events 
  • Meetings and Conferences: Visitor Studies Association (VSA) Conference, ASTC Annual Conference 2017 


Explore Science: Earth & Space event reports due June 15th

Partners who received a physical Explore Science: Earth & Space toolkit are required to complete an online event report; the deadline to submit this report is June 15, 2017. Learn more about reporting here. As a 2017 toolkit recipient, final reports must be submitted in order to be eligible to receive an Explore Science: Earth & Space 2018 toolkit.

Are you planning an event for the upcoming August 21st total solar eclipse? This amazing astronomical event is a must-see for kids of all ages and is another great opportunity for use of the Explore Science: Earth & Space toolkit. It's not too late to plan an event - the eclipse will be visible throughout the continental United States. 

  • Digital toolkit: If you didn't receive a physical toolkit, all materials are available for digital download including several eclipse activities 
  • Online workshops: Join us for two upcoming Earth & Space online workshops in June that will discuss eclipse live-streaming and hear from partners who are planning eclipse events both on and off the path of totality. Join these online workshops
  • Solar eclipse resources: A must view compilation of solar eclipse resources is available here, including links to NISE Net planning resources, NASA event planning resources, maps, and visualizations, hands-on activities, information on how to find experts to volunteer at your event, adding your event to NASA's eclipse event map, where to purchase affordable eclipse glasses, live streaming options, and citizen science projects!


Online Workshops: Staying connected to the Network and community

The NISE Network runs a series of free online workshops to increase the number of professional development opportunities available to our partners, and to create more channels for partners to share their work and learn from each other directly. View full details for upcoming online workshops at


Streaming the Eclipse: How to Utilize Online Live Streams at Your Eclipse Event

Tuesday, June 20, 2017; 2-3 PM Eastern - Sign up now

With the August 21st total solar eclipse just around the corner, a high-quality online stream of this rare event can add content and context for your visitors. Presenters from the Exploratorium and Lawrence Hall of Science will provide tips for giving your visitors a solid viewing experience. Whether you're on the eclipse's path or far away, or if the weather does or doesn't cooperate, this online workshop will give you a head start when preparing to show the solar eclipse live.

Join the Eclipse Party! What are You Doing to Celebrate the August 21st, 2017 Total Solar Eclipse?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017; 2-3 PM Eastern - Sign up now

Do you have your plans finalized for the big event? If you’re still looking for programming ideas, or if you have ideas you’d love to share with others in the NISE Net community, join us for an online sharing of eclipse planning and programming ideas. During this discussion, we'll present a list of relevant NISE Net activities and resources and also hear from a few network partners who are hosting events and pre-eclipse events both on and off the path of totality. Time will be available at the end for all participants to share their own plans, ideas, and burning questions. Don't miss out on one of the most amazing astronomical events in our lifetime!

All NISE Network Online Workshops are recorded and archived online here

2017 Science Showcase video contest deadline August 31st

Are you a scientist doing cool research, and have a passion for telling others about it? The Science Showcase video contest is designed to celebrate the best in researcher created science videos that are short, engaging, and made for a broad public audience. This may even be a perfect fit to help meet those broader impacts! Learn more about this video contest


Using the Explore Science: Earth and Space Toolkit to bring Astronomy "Down to Earth" at The Robinson Nature Center in Howard County, Maryland

By: Meagan Downey

Robinson Nature Center is a nature education facility in Columbia, MD whose mission is to facilitate the enjoyment and understanding of nature. Visitors come assuming to learn about plants and animals but the center's director "hopes to make people understand that the natural world is so much more...It goes far beyond the Earth." As a recipient of the Explore Science: Earth & Space 2017 toolkit, Robinson Nature Center hosted its first ever Yuri's Night Space Party for a sell-out audience. Toolkit activities were spread throughout the building to engage visitors, Solar System Ambassadors gave presentations, and participants sampled various space foods, and made their own nebulas in bottles. Participant feedback was extremely positive such as, "All the activities were excellent for both the children and the adults!" and "The activities and exhibits were perfect for all ages (we ranged in age from 2 to 67)." Read Robinson Nature Center's full partner highlight


Butterfly resources for programs and exhibits

The NISE Network has created a variety of resources about butterflies that are great for integrating into programs or exhibits. View the complete list of butterfly resources including, posters and graphics, hands-on activities and videos, classroom activities, exhibits and scientific images. 

Association of Children's Museums (ACM) Interactivity 2017 Resources

The NISE Network hosted an exhibit booth and presented in several professional development sessions at the recent ACM. View session presentations and resources here


Earth and Space News

NASA mission into the sun's atmosphere launches in 2018

NASA's Parker Solar Probe, newly renamed after solar astrophysicist Eugene Parker who first predicted the existence of supersonic solar wind, is due to launch in 2018 and will orbit within four million miles of the sun's surface. The Solar Probe will collect data to help scientists better understand the solar corona, examine what makes up the solar wind, and help to answer fundamental questions about the physics of stars and to improve space weather forecasting. Read more about NASA's hottest upcoming mission and NASA's press release 

Related programs and activities: 

NASA's Night Sky Network - What's up for June 2017

Learn about the astronomical events taking place this month

Synthetic Biology News

First synthetic retina created

The retina sits at the back of the human eye and contains cells that convert light into electrical signals, triggering a response from the brain and ultimately forming a visual picture. Previous retina research has used hard, rigid materials whereas new laboratory research has successfully developed and used biological, synthetic tissues to create a retina that closely mimics the human process. This research could revolutionize the bionic industry and the development of new, less invasive treatments in helping to treat degenerative eye conditions. Read more about synthetic retina research

Related programs and activities: Introduction to Synthetic Biology and Society video and Building with Biology: Kit of Parts hands-on activity

Chemistry News

Reusable 'oleo sponge' could change the way we deal with oil spills

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 was an environmental disaster. One challenge in the remediation efforts was that much of the oil spilled hovered deep underwater rather than floating to the surface. Researchers have now developed a reusable sponge specially treated with aluminum oxide that serves as a base coat on which scientists deposited "oil-loving" (or oleophilic) compounds. Tests have shown that this sponge is able to absorb 30 times its weight in oil, and up to 90 times its weight using a different type of foam and treatment process. Read more about how this new technology can help the environment

Related programs and activities: Oil Spill Clean Up Simulation short activity


For specific activity ideas for events, and for more inspiration for year-long events and activities, visit


Sun and Sand themed programs and activities

World Oceans Day (June 8)

Asteroid Day (June 30)

Celestial events: meteor showers, lunar eclipses, full moons, planetary events, and solar eclipse (August 21, 2017) - solar eclipse event planning resources and links

National Chemistry Week (October 22-28) - 2017 NCW Theme: Chemistry Rocks! 


Visitor Studies Association (VSA) Conference

July 18 - 22, 2017; Columbus, OH

Join NISE Net at VSA 2017 where partners will be presenting in sessions on evaluation capacity building, science cafes and forums, and collaboration. Learn more VSA 2017


Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) Annual Conference 2017

October 21 - 24, 2017; San Jose, CA 

The NISE Network will have a variety of activities and professional development opportunities at the upcoming conference including sessions, an exhibit hall booth, partner breakfast and happy hour. Learn more ASTC 2017


Do you have something you would like to submit for inclusion in the NISE Network monthly e-newsletter? Please send your announcements, articles, or community opportunities to Kayla Berry at [email protected].