Posted by: COSI | December 17, 2009

What Happens When We Connect Local Students Into A Worldwide Event?

The students were extremely motivated as they communicated with similarly aged youth in a totally different culture through the 300 baud modem exchange we’d set up between the schools…

The modern equivalent was Metro School students engaging in an international simulation activity with students coordinated by science centers in six other locations, including France and Denmark, and then video conferencing with the likes of international UN and foreign government officials, a US program officer from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and international science center officials—all connecting from the Copenhagen climate summit.

Although my points of reference were 25 years and more than one generation apart, I saw the same motivation and engagement develop through the opportunities—whether it was what is now considered the “stone age” of computer connectivity when I was computer coordinator of a leading high school program in the 80’s or current state of the art gaming and international videoconferencing of today.

COSI, working through our international science center organization ASTC, was able to link students around the country and world not only with each other, but with a topic of intense interest to them and a highly reported and energetic focus of world leaders at this moment.

In the discussion that followed, students were very grateful to participate in this event. They recognized the importance of the Copenhagen conference. Neal Bluel, the teacher from the Metro School (an affiliated STEM focused school), said that connection to this conference helped to make the online game real. It was shared with me that Neal thought that what we had been able to arrange was a fantastic learning opportunity and he would like to look into additional opportunities to connect to schools around the world.

Even the blog responses to the newspaper article on the activity, as negative and histrionic as some can unfortunately be, are a learning opportunity for the students. (And I’m suspecting this blog will generate some of the same).

This was a personally gratifying way, for me as an educator, to see us play an expanding role as a connector—of students to others of different cultures and to an international event of world importance.

Polls at COSI, nationally, and internationally validate each other that the public look to us and other science centers to help make sense of the issues and dynamics around Energy and Environment—significantly ahead of any other areas of public interest.

The topics are complex, the issues are debated, and using tools like web based simulations are new ways in which places like COSI can offer opportunities for exploration and connectivity outside of our traditional exhibit and program based approaches.

What’s your interest in COSI helping address the need we’ve heard for more information as our companies like GE, research institutions like Battelle and OSU, and governments work to make progress in informing and establishing a more sustainable society?

How would you suggest we engage students and schools more?

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