Tara Fox of The Franklin Institute recounts how a local program born from a museum-library partnership has become a national network for science and literacy. Join the Leap into Science session at ALA Annual 2018 conference in NOLA.
The Franklin Institute, a science museum in Philadelphia, Pa., sits across the street from the main branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, so a collaboration between the two organizations was bound to happen. In 2007, with the help of the National Science Foundation, they partnered together to create Leap into Science, a hands-on science and literacy program designed to be used in the Free Library’s citywide after school program, which at the time did not have a strong focus on science. The goal of this project was to intentionally integrate children’s books with hands-on investigations of science concepts, engaging families across the city in science and literacy learning. Leap into Science workshops provide opportunities for children and their caregivers to have fun learning together and think critically in order to develop positive attitudes towards science and literacy.
In 2011, the project expanded to 10 pilot cities across the country, where new partnerships were formed between museums, libraries and other community-based organizations to pilot the Leap into Science resources. These partners included science centers, children’s museums, out-of-school time networks and several public libraries: Lafayette (Colo.) Public Library; High Plains (Colo.) Library District; Rio Rancho (N.M.) Public Library and Albuquerque Bernalillo County Library; Queens (N.Y.) Library; Salt Lake City (Utah) Public Library; York County (Pa.) Libraries; Multnomah County (Ore.) Public Library; and Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library.
Members from each organization attended in-person conferences in Philadelphia in 2011 and 2015 to learn how to facilitate science and literacy workshops in their various settings. After participating in the program, educators showed increased interest in science and improved skills in facilitating meaningful learning in informal settings. In fact, librarians showed the most change of any educator group who participated in the program. Library partners were relying less on outside organizations to provide science programming because of their increased confidence to offer quality science and literacy programming themselves.
The success of this pilot expansion meant that Leap into Science was ready to be used by more informal educators around the country. In 2017, the Franklin Institute received a grant from the National Science Foundation to join forces with the National Girls Collaborative Project and the Institute for Learning Innovation to expand Leap into Science nationally using a statewide dissemination approach, aiming to reach underserved rural and urban communities. This model empowers state leaders from libraries, museums and out-of-school time settings to collaborate and train educators across their state. In January of 2018 the following six states were selected to participate in the first cohort: Arizona, New Jersey, Oregon, Tennessee, West Virginia and Washington. The majority of these state leadership teams include state library organizations, as they are valuable systems through which science and literacy programs can be disseminated to rural and urban communities across states. This summer, Leap into Science trainings and public programs will be offered in each of these states.
If you are interested in bringing Leap into Science to your state, begin talking with state library systems, after school networks, museums, and community-based organizations in your state that could serve as co-leaders. For more information, visit the Leap into Science website or join Tara Cox and Karen Peterson at their interactive ALA session, Leap into Science: Cultivating a National Network for Informal Science and Literacy on Sunday, June 24, from 2:30-3:30 pm. There will also be an informal science and literacy meet up hosted on Monday, June 25 from 4:30-6:30 pm. Please email Tara Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org for location details.
Tara Cox is the Manager of Professional Development at the Franklin Institute. She develops and leads professional development for teachers, librarians and a wide array of out-of-school-time educators. She specializes in creating interactive learning experience on strategies for engaging diverse audiences in STEM.
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