Association of Science and Technology Centers
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|Headquarters||Washington, D.C., USA|
President and CEO
Chair of the Board
The Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) is a non-profit, global organization based in Washington, D.C.in the United States, that provides a collective voice, professional support, and programming opportunities for science centers, museums, and related institutions. Through strategic alliances and global partnerships, ASTC's goal is to increase awareness of the valuable contributions its members make to their communities and the field of informal STEM learning.
Founded in 1973, ASTC now represents nearly 700 members in almost 50 countries, including not only science centers and museums, but also nature centers, aquariums, planetariums, zoos, botanical gardens, and natural history and children’s museums, as well as companies, consultants, and other organizations that share an interest in informal science education.
Science centers aims to connect people with science, give science a presence in the community and offer people of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to ask questions, discuss, and explore.
Science centers goal is to provide firsthand experience and an opportunity to develop intuitions about the natural world. Hands-on activities hosted in some science centres, may include things such as feeling infrared radiation and experiencing angular momentum—so when people encounter these concepts in other settings, they’ll be likelier to understand. Many schools rely on science centers for field trips and auditorium programs, curriculum, science kits, and teacher training.
Science centers also aim to encourage curiosity. In the words of Frank Oppenheimer, founder of San Francisco's Exploratorium, “No one flunks a museum.” For some, the interests awakened by science center experiences have turned into a passion for science.
ASTC’s goal is to support these efforts of science centers and museums, in addition to their staff, visitors, and communities.
Some ASTC member institutions also participate in ASTC’s Passport Program. The Passport Program allows members of a participating institution to visit other participating institutions for free, provided the member is visiting an institution more than 90 miles from their home institution. More than 300 institutions in over a dozen countries are currently participating in the Passport Program.
Each year, nearly 2,000 individuals representing science centers and museums from across the world, informal science educators, and companies collaborating with the museum field gather for ASTC’s Annual Conference.
ASTC provides professional development opportunities for those who work in science centers and other institutions of informal learning. ASTC’s professional development services include:
Communities of Practice
Communities of Practice (CoP) provide informal science education professionals the infrastructure they need to meet the field's challenges. ASTC provides CoPs with resources and support for connecting with colleagues, convening meetings, and organizing workshops, among other activities. The current CoPs include:
- Public Engagement with Science
- Research & Evaluation
- Visitor Services
- Volunteer Managers on LinkedIn
- Youth Programs Advocates for Diversity
- ASTC Development Professionals LinkedIn Group
- ASTC Information Technology LinkedIn Group
- ASTC Membership Managers LinkedIn Group
- Network for Leaders of Interpreters, Facilitators and Explainers (NetLIFE)
- Afterschool Programs
- Intersection of Technology, Art, Science, and Culture (TASC)
Partnerships and programs
ExhibitFiles is an online community of exhibit practitioners building a shared collection of exhibition records and reviews. It's a place to connect with colleagues, find out about exhibits, and share your own experiences. ExhibitFiles was developed to preserve and share experiences and materials that are often unrecorded, temporary, and hard to locate. Visitors to the site can also search for, and post exhibitions rentals and sales.
ASTC publishes Dimensions, which features in-depth analysis of news and trends in the science center and museum field, in addition to articles about noteworthy events and resources. Dimensions readers include directors and staff of ASTC-member institutions around the world, as well as those with an interest in informal science education. Until 2020, Dimensions was a bimonthly print and online magazine; since mid-2020, it is an exclusively online publication that publishes continuously.
Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education
ASTC is home to the Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE). CAISE's charge is to strengthen and connect the informal science education (ISE) community by creating and disseminating resources, as well as catalyzing conversation and collaboration across the ISE field—including film and broadcast media, science centers and museums, zoos and aquariums, botanical gardens and nature centers, digital media and gaming, science journalism, and youth, community, and after-school programs. Founded in 2007 with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, CAISE is a partnership among ASTC and Co-Principal Investigators at Oregon State University (OSU), the University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments (UPCLOSE), The Great Lakes Science Center and KQED San Francisco. CAISE manages the InformalScience.org website, which is a growing repository of project descriptions, evaluation reports and tools, and research papers and products that are collected and curated to provide informal STEM Learning practitioners with knowledge that can be used when developing new work and seeking potential collaborators.
- Official website
- Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education 5-Year Strategic Plan
- K. C. Cole (2012). Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens: Frank Oppenheimer and His Astonishing Exploratorium. University of Chicago Press. pp. 104–105. ISBN 9780226113470.
- "ASTC: Association of Science Technology Centers". Franklin Institute. Archived from the original on 2012-06-30. Retrieved 2014-10-13.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-02-14. Retrieved 2020-06-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE) Projects Informal Science". Archived from the original on September 5, 2015. Retrieved June 11, 2015.