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Hands sorting tokens to signify which technology is most important to them

Societal Aspects of STEM

Public engagement programs and professional learning resources that provide opportunities for conversations and consideration of the relationship between science, technology, and society.

Many NISE Network public engagement activities try to provide opportunities for conversations and consideration of the relationship between science, technology, and society. Emerging science and technology offer the promise of new discoveries that may dramatically improve our lives and bring great advances in applications as diverse as medicine, energy, and materials. At the same time, emerging science and technology may also have potential negative impacts that touch on a broad range of societal concerns—environmental pollution, toxicity, equity, and privacy violations. In academia this field is often referred to as Society and Ethical Implications (SEI) or Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI).

Below are examples of NISE Network public engagement activities and professional learning resources that focus on societal aspects of science and technology.

Featured Hands-on Activities and Programs

Two children are seated at a table spread with large cards that depict writing and various radio technologies. Both children are holding a card in each hand and smiling as they read the cards.

Radio Futures: You Decide

Learns discover how their own values and the values of other can shape the development and use of future radio technologies.
An adult and child, both smiling, sit close together at a table as the child points to an image on the Wavetown illustration.

Radio Futures: I Spy Radio

Young learners explore a colorful illustration showing everyday uses of radio technologies.
cards showing human attributes and robot jobs

What Makes Us Human

Explore what it means to be human and how humanlike machines might become.
selection of cards showing technology and people

Neuro Futures Card Game

Prioritize cards with new neurotechnologies according to your own values and the values of others.
A bracket containing different neurotechnology cards

Neuro Futures Championship Game

Pit new neurotechnologies head-to-head using a sports-style bracket.
Two learners place tokens on what technology card they value more

Building with Biology: Tech Tokens

In this activity, learners consider the potential advantages and disadvantages of various areas of synthetic biology research, before investing in them with "tech tokens."
Building with Biology Bio Bistro activity components

Building with Biology: Bio Bistro

In this activity, learners decide what current and future synthetic biology-based food products they would, would not, or might eat.
An overhead shot of a learner holding and comparing different theoretical technologies summarized on sheets of paper

Exploring Nano & Society - You Decide!

In this activity, learners sort and prioritize cards with new nanotechnologies according to their own values and the values of others.
Two learners and one facilitator look and discuss a space elevator concept that one of the learners drew on paper

Exploring Nano & Society - Space Elevator

In this activity, learners imagine and draw what a space elevator might look like, what support systems would surround it, and what other technologies it might enable.
Two girls discuss their ideas for flying cars with toy car props to a facilitator

Exploring Nano & Society - Flying Cars

In this activity, learners imagine and build a flying car out of small foam pieces while having conversations about future technology.
Hands holding glass objects on a string in a beaker of liquid

Exploring Nano & Society - Invisibility Cloak

In this activity, learners explore how refraction can be used to make a glass stir rod "disappear" in a cup of baby oil, while having conversations about new technologies.
Learners discuss a picture card from the activity together

Exploring Nano & Society - Tell a Nano Story

In this activity, learners are inspired by picture cards to tell a story about nanotechnologies in the future.
Family of four arrange objects that represent different nano subjects on a balance table

Exploring Nano & Society - Tippy Table

In this activity, learners have a conversation about additional blocks they can place on the tippy table component of the Nano Mini-Exhibition.
Nano Around The World  activity components including signs, activity materials and guides.

Nano Around the World card game

In this activity, learners are asked to assume the role of their character to find nanotechnologies that might benefit them and reflect on the potential uses of nanotechnology across the globe.
Plastic grocery baskets along with grocery store purchases including sunblock

Buy It, Or Better Not?

In this activity, learners consider the costs, risks, and benefits of nanoparticles in various products.
Poster showing flexible solar cells in a ribbon

Nano & Society Posters

Posters featuring the science and society connections for nanotechnology; accompanied by a facilitator guide
Frankentoy activity with participants engaged


In this activity, learners make a “creature” by mixing and matching different parts of toys.
A group of learners creating a scribblebot using a pool noodle, small electric motor and thin markers

Scribble Bot

In this activity, learners create a toy bot with a surprising ability: it scribbles on a sheet of paper.
Two automata on a table - one monster and one leaf being manipulated but a visitor


In this activity, learners build an automaton, a moving mechanical device that imitates the movement of a human, animal, or other living thing.
Children with surprised faces and adults using the Frankenstein kit Battery Stack activity  - adults dressed as Mary Shelley and the Monster

Frankenstein 200 Kit

Hands-on activities and professional development resources that encourage creativity and reflection about responsible innovation, developed in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein.
Materials image of the Future Builder activity featuring wooden colored blocks and an explanation guide

Future Builder

In this activity, learners build a tower representing a future community. Learners will discover how sustainability is a balance of economic, societal, and environmental efforts.
Learner holding the origami-folded game in their hands

Nano Future Tellers

In this activity, learners play an origami-folded, interactive pocket game to explore future nano products.
Hands holding blocks and cards for Future Builder SustainABLE activity


A compilation of sustainability public engagement and professional learning resources. Annual events include: World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development, Earth Hour, Earth Day, National Public Works Week, Campus Sustainability Month, and more.
Sustainable Futures logo in full color

Games for the Future

In this activity, learners participate in futures thinking and learn about the United Nation's global goals for sustainable development by playing a series of games.


Screen shot of a Building with Biology video featuring a female news anchor speaking to the camera

Building with Biology: Introduction to Synthetic Biology and Society Video

This 7 minute video is designed to help create conversations in museums among scientists and public audiences about the emerging field of synthetic biology and its societal implications.
Research taking a water sample

Does Every Silver Lining Have a Cloud?

In this 6-minute video, Duke University researchers explain the relationship between nanomaterials and their potential impact on the ecosystem.
An illustrated human half submerged in a water

Changing Our Relationship With Science video

In this 8-minute video, scientists from Harvard, Princeton and Duke University imagine the future of science and technology in thirty, or fifty years.
A black and white photo of three people sitting at a table having an intense discussion

Three Angry Scientists

In this 20-minute film, actors depict a dramatic conversation on the risks and benefits of new technology.

Wonders and Worries of Nanotechnology: Ask and Research

In this 3-minute video, actors portray characters in a 1950s style public service film about how to have a high-quality conversation about science and society.

Wonders and Worries of Nanotechnology: Who Benefits

In this 4-minute video, actors portray characters in a 1950s style public service film about the unknown "future" of nanotechnology.

Wonders and Worries of Nanotechnology: Regulation

In this 4-minute video, actors portray characters in a 1950s style public service film about regulation and nanotechnology.
Two actors looking into a mirror having a conversation

Wonders and Worries of Nanotechnology

In this 4-minute video, actors portray characters in a 1950s style public service film about the risks and benefits of nanotechnology.
Two actors act in a play about nano and society.

Same Sides and Let's Talk About It videos

In this program, learners are introduced to nanoscale science which includes 2 ten-minute plays that stimulate conversation about the impact the field of nanoscale science may have on our lives.

Professional Learning Resources

Stock photo of a group of people laying on couches and the floor

Nanotechnology and Society Guide

This professional development guide serves as a short introduction to how museum professionals can engage visitors in conversations about nanotechnology and society and help make our science centers a place where the future of nanotechnology is not just imagined, but shaped.
Green spherical Nano mini-exhibition logo

Nano and Society Training Materials

Professional development training tools to prepare staff and volunteers to facilitate Nano and Society activities.
Nano exhibition logo

Nano & Society Workshop

September 5, 2012 - October 4, 2012
This series of workshops focused on preparing museum educators to engage the public in conversations about the relationship between nanotechnology and society.
Man in red shirt and lady in blue shirt participate in a Improv exercise with other professional museum educators

Improv Exercises

Improv exercises can be used by professionals as icebreakers, getting-to-know-you activities, and as tools to empower educators to facilitate positive, learning conversations with visitors.
DEAI Booklet Cover showing an illustration of a diverse group of people

Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion (DEAI) Booklet

Tools for engaging communities and incorporating DEAI practices into informal STEM projects. The tools, practices, and project examples are designed to support NISE Network partner efforts in making their experiences more relevant and inclusive in order to promote a more equitable STEM future in our local communities.
Learner smells balloons with educators

Inclusive Audiences

Informal STEM education is designed for everyone! NISE Network creates materials that educators and STEM professionals can share with lifelong learners of all ages and backgrounds.
Sustainability and Museums: Cover Guide featuring a father and young child interacting with a giant balloon

Professional Resources for Sustainability

Tools to help museum professionals plan and implement sustainability projects and programs.