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Newsletter: March 2017

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

  • Community News: Explore Space: Earth & Space physical toolkits have now been delivered!, Building with Biology highlights public engagement activities about synthetic biology at AAAS 2017 Conference, Celebrating NanoDays 2017: March 5 - April 2 
  • Upcoming Events & Opportunities: Upcoming NISE Network online workshops, The Association of Children's Museums (ACM) Interactivity 2017
  • Partner Highlights: Building with Biology at the Joseph Moore Museum of Natural History at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana; Zoom into nano: Bringing nano to a new audience in Towson, Maryland
  • Featured on the Website: NISE Network Impacts: Report to Partners, Leading and Managing the NISE Network Guide, Explore Science: Earth & Space toolkit training and content videos
  • Science in the News: What is gene editing and how does it work?; NASA telescope reveals largest batch of Earth-size, habitable-zone planets around single star; NASA's Night Sky Network-What's up for March 2017; Slow-release nitrogen fertilizer could increase crop yield
  • STEM Throughout the Year: NISE Net's ideas for incorporating current science, engineering, and technology into holidays, seasons, annual events, and special events 


Explore Science: Earth & Space physical toolkits have now been delivered!

SEISEAs you begin your preparations for your Explore Science: Earth & Space events this spring, we encourage you to go through each activity box sooner rather than later to make sure all materials and resources are in good shape. The facilitator guide in each activity box lists the materials for that activity, as well the source for those materials. Continue reading the blog post for more information about your Explore Science: Earth & Space physical toolkit.
Building with Biology highlights public engagement activities about synthetic biology at AAAS 2017 Conference
Building with BiologyThe Building with Biology project’s partners successfully completed over 170 Building with Biology events and forums across the U.S. and Puerto Rico throughout the summer of 2016, and the project team was eager to share our experiences, lessons learned, and preliminary results at the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2017 Conference held in Boston, Massachusetts. Read the full blog post to learn about project activities at AAAS including conference sessions, a networking reception for attendees interested in learning more about public engagement with science, and final project meeting.
Celebrating NanoDays 2017: March 25 - April 2
NanoDaysAlthough the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network project has now come to an end, we still encourage partners to continue engaging your visitors in learning about nanoscale science, engineering, and technology by hosting annual NanoDays events. Explore the NanoDays kit archive where there are eight years of hands-on activities, staff and volunteer training materials, and marketing resources available for download and use. Some additional resources of interest as you plan your festivities may include: 

Upcoming online workshops: Staying connected to the Network and Community
Online Workshops

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

The Science Behind the Earth & Space Toolkit: Astrobiology - Searching for Life
Tuesday, March 14, 2017; 2-3 PM Eastern - Sign up now

This online presentation and discussion will cover the science behind three of the 2017 Explore Science: Earth & Space toolkit activities - Ice Orbs, Imagining Life, and Pocket Solar System. After a brief overview of each activity and its materials, our guest presenter, an astrophysicist and science educator, will lead a discussion about astrobiology and how this exciting field of science encompasses the search for life in the universe, planets around other stars, extremophiles, and future robotic and manned missions into space.

The Science Behind the Explore & Space Toolkit: The Changing Earth
Tuesday, March 28, 2017; 2-3 PM Eastern - Sign up now

This online presentation and discussion will cover the science behind three of the 2017 Explore Science: Earth & Space toolkit activities - Rising Seas, Investigating Clouds, and Orbiting Objects. After a brief overview of each activity and its resources, our guest presenter, a space scientist and science educator, will facilitate learning more about NASA's contributions to discovering the primary cause of our rising seas, understanding cloud distribution and formation, and measuring Earth's gravity.

Working through Difficult Concepts in the Explore Science: Earth and Space Toolkit
Tuesday, April 18, 2017; 2-3 PM Eastern - Sign up now

In this online workshop, learn how to identify common patterns of thinking, including misconceptions, preconceived notions and vernacular issues as learners build their ideas around Earth and space science concepts and strategies to best address them. We will also discuss how to use the NISE Net’s NASA Wavelength lists to explore more resources to support building on facets of understanding while interacting with visitors.

Did you miss a recent NISE Network online workshop? All online workshops are recorded and archived online along with their resources [view online workshop archive].

The Association of Children's Museums (ACM) Interactivity 2017
Fun is Serious Business is this year's theme at the upcoming ACM Interactivity Conference taking place May 1-4 in Pasadena, California. The NISE Network will be present and we welcome partners to stop by the Network booth #40 in the exhibit hall to talk with regional hub leaders and visit with other Network partners and colleagues. Network partners will also be providing information about engaging the public in the following sessions [visit the NISE Net ACM event page for more exhibit hall and session details]: 
  • Engaging All Learners: Partnerships and Programs to Reach Diverse Audiences​ (Wednesday, May 3)
  • The 2017 Eclipse: Tools for Engaging Young Scientists (Thursday, May 4)
  • Best Program Ever! Tools and Techniques to Create Great Programs (Friday, May 5)


Building with Biology at the Joseph Moore Museum of Natural History at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana
By: Lydia Evans, Joseph Moore Museum
Synthetic or real vanilla - which tastes better? Guests at the Joseph Moore Museum’s Building with Biology event had the opportunity to decide for themselves while learning about bioengineered food and taste-testing cookies made with synthetic and real vanilla. As a Building with Biology kit recipient, the museum's student and faculty staff set out to engage the public and scientists in synthetic biology through a two events: the first was a public forum where Earlham College staff, students, faculty, and Richmond community members formed small groups to discuss whether to bioengineer the mosquito. The second event was a Building with Biology activity day where visitors explored various hands-on activities facilitated by museum staff and microbiology students. Continue reading the full Partner Highlight to see results to the Tech Token activity where visitors explored the potential advantages and disadvantages of synthetic biology research, before investing in them with "tech tokens."
Zoom into nano: Bringing nano to a new audience in Towson, Maryland
By: Sarah Zimmerman, Port Discovery Children's Museum
Port Discovery Children's Museum in Baltimore is committed to providing educational programming to children of all socio-economic backgrounds across Maryland. As a recipient of the NISE Network's Museum & Community Partnerships Zoom into Nano kit, Port Discovery was presented with a great opportunity to reach a new audience - the faith-based community. Expanding upon an established partnership with a local church, the museum provided a five week after school program, free of charge, all about nanoscience. The program was designed using the Zoom into Nano kit, previous NanoDays kits, as well as Port Discovery designed activities. The program was a success for both the museum and community partner! The church does not often receive this type of enrichment activity because it is not affiliated with the school and the church isn't in an accessible location in the county. Parents reported that their students did not want to go home during Port Discovery afternoons...Continue reading the full Partner Highlight to read more about the successes of this partnership and the new opportunities for reaching audiences with nanoscience programming and beyond
NISE Network partner shout-outs
Aaron J Dy from MIT in Cambridge, MA
Catch me at the 'Public Engagement with Science' reception. #buildingwithbiology #synbio #AAASmtg

Jayatri Das from Philadelphia, PA
@nisenet nano activities spotted at #AAASmtg Family Science Days, courtesy of our friends at @DiscoveryActon!

Dietram A. Scheufele from University of Wisconsin, Madison
@nisenet just got a shout-out at #aaasmtg #scicomm session for making emerging science relevant to people's lives

Dennis Cloughetry from University of Vermont in Burlington, VT
Congrats @nisenet! Proud to have been your partner for over a decade on #STEMeducation @ECHOvt @uvmphysics @UVMcas

NISE Network Impacts: Report to Partners
The NISE Network Report to Partners provides an overview of the major activities of the Network and highlights our collective accomplishments related to building collaborations, engaging the public, and increasing the capacity of the field. The Report includes three related products: a printed report (updated through 2016), a set of presentation slides, and a video.
This NISE Network guide was created to share what the leadership of the NISE Net did to create this national supportive network whose scope and scale were unprecedented in the science museum field. It focuses on 1) enduring values upon which the Network was built, 2) ongoing challenges in structure and activities that were essential to developing the Network's capacity, and 3) some of the practical processes and tools used to run the Network.
Explore Science: Earth & Space toolkit training and content videos 
The nine activity training videos and eight content training videos are designed to help museum staff and volunteers using the toolkit learn how to facilitate the hands-on activities and feel comfortable while while engaging public audiences with activities from the Earth & Space toolkit. Training and content videos are available online at

Synthetic Biology News
What is gene editing and how does it work?
This short video produced by The Royal Society provides an introduction to DNA and how changes to genes, be it by natural processes or through intentional manipulation, can have major impacts. Gene editing (e.g., CRISPR) has the potential to make big changes to our lives. However, in addition to determining the positive and negative outcomes to gene-editing, there are also ethical and societal implications that must be considered while debating how to solve some of the world's biggest challenges. Watch video now 
  • Explore NISE Net's Building with Biology's hands-on activities that discuss synthetic biology technologies and encourage participants to design solutions to real-world problems. 
  • Building with Biology forums provide an opportunity to engage in thoughtful conversations about important issues regarding the potential societal and ethical implications of synthetic biology, including gene-editing.
Earth and Space News
NASA telescope reveals largest batch of Earth-size, habitable-zone planets around single star
The big news out of NASA most recently is that seven rocky planets have been found around a very nearby star, all of which could potentially have liquid water. A new NASA telescope launching in 2018 will be able to teach us more about this star system and be able to detect the chemical makeup of the planets' atmospheres including the existence of water, methane, and oxygen. Read NASA's press release and watch a short video about this newest discovery
NASA's Night Sky Network - What's up for March 2017

Chemistry News
Slow-release nitrogen fertilizer could increase crop yields
Nitrogen fertilizers are used to grow crops around the globe but are also a major environmental polluter downstream due to the mass amounts of nitrogen run-off that occurs prior to the plant's ability to absorb it all. In response, farmers often reapply extra fertilizer to crops, which is expensive and leads to continued negative environmental impacts. Scientists have developed a slow-release fertilizer that attaches the nitrogen molecule to nanoparticles, which are non-toxic and a good source of phosphate for plants. Initial tests have shown that in water, the nitrogen nanoparticle combination released nitrogen for about a week, as compared to a much shorter period when nitrogen was released alone, and yielded an increase in crops even with less nitrogen delivered. Creative strategies to grow more food with fewer resources is critical as global climates continue to change and worldwide population grows to over 9 billion. 


NISE Network
To explore the many events and activities highlighted throughout the month of March, and for even more inspiration for year-long events visit,
March events and activities
  • Women's History Month (March)
  • Groundwater Awareness Week (March 5 - 11)
  • Brain Awareness Week (March 13 - 19)
  • Pi Day (March 14)
  • National Learn about Butterflies Day (March 14)
  • World Water Day (March 22)
  • Earth Hour (March 25)
Celestial events 

July 18 - 22, 2017 - Visitor Studies Association (VSA) Conference - Columbus, OH
Facebook          Twitter           LinkedIn
Explore Science                  Building with Biology           sustainABLE

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].