Project: Traveling Exhibits at Museums of Science (TEAMS) Collaborative
Authors: Mark St. John, Becky Carroll, Jenifer Helms, Dawn Robles, Lynn Stelmah
Publication: December 2008
TEAMS III: The TEAMS Collaborative
Summative Report (pdf, 59 pages)
The final version of these reports was posted February 2009.
Lessons Learned from the Long-Term Investment in the TEAMS Collaborative
Over the course of three rounds of consecutive funding, the National Science Foundation (NSF) invested in the Traveling Exhibits at Museums of Science (TEAMS) collaborative. Since 1996, the TEAMS collaborative museums have developed traveling exhibitions and related education materials to circulate through each other’s museums, and then more broadly to the larger field of science museums. Inverness Research has served as the external evaluator on the TEAMS project for all three rounds of NSF funding.
It is rare that the National Science Foundation provides funding to the same group over such an extended period of time. As the final round of funding comes to an end, we thought it important to share our perspective on the value of this investment. In this report, we will document the theory of action of the project—the rationale for the investment in and design of the project. In addition, we will summarize what we see as the return on NSF’s investment, for these individual museums, their staff and visitors, and for the larger field of informal science education institutions. Finally, we will share the larger lessons learned from this long-term collaborative.
For a more detailed summary of the findings from the third round of NSF funding, please see “TEAMS III Summative Report” below.
TEAMS III: Summative Evaluation Report
Over the course of three rounds of consecutive funding, the National Science Foundation (NSF) invested in the Traveling Exhibits at Museums of Science (TEAMS) collaborative. Since 1996, the TEAMS collaborative museums have developed traveling exhibitions and related education materials to circulate through each other’s museums, and then more broadly to the larger field of science museums. Museums participating in the TEAMS collaborative include:
- Catawba Science Center in Hickory, North Carolina
- Discovery Center Museum in Rockford, Illinois
- The Family Museum of Arts and Science in Bettendorf, Iowa
- The Health Adventure in Asheville, North Carolina
- Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, Vermont
- Rochester Museum and Science Center in Rochester, New York
- Sciencenter in Ithaca, New York
The third round of funding began in 2004. In addition to developing two copies of four separate traveling exhibitions and related education programs, the TEAMS museums engaged in a shared research effort. Specifically, the collaborative-wide research project focused on applying a socio-cultural learning lens to conversations at exhibits, and how to design exhibits such that the conversations that took place would promote learning. Thus, the third round of funding was intended to produce both a set of traveling exhibitions as well as knowledge for the field about engaging in research into conversations and designing exhibits that promote conversation.
Within the group of seven collaborative museums, three pairs of museums in close geographic proximity to one another worked together to create three of the exhibitions. Four exhibitions were created in this round of funding, including:
- From Here to There (Sciencenter and Rochester Museum)
- Spin (Catawba and Health Adventure)
- Get the Message (Discovery Museum and Family Museum)
- Toys: The Inside Story (Montshire Museum)
This report highlights findings from the evaluation of the third round of TEAMS funding. Because the focal point of the collaborative’s work centered on learning about how to design exhibits that promote conversation, and the application of that learning to the exhibitions being developed, the findings we will share in this report focus on two key areas: 1) a summary of the research project–that is, the design of this focal area of work, and the larger lessons learned from the effort; and 2) a summary of the exhibitions—in particular, the quality of the resulting exhibitions vis a vis conversations.
Science Center Exhibit Designers, Museum Educators, Science Educators, Professional Development Providers, Teachers, and general public.
Any and all errors are claimed by the authors of this document, Inverness Research, Inc.
Inverness Research Inc. grants permission to print and distribute copies.