In the world of K-12 education, it's easy to get so focused on the role of schools that one may forget all the opportunities to learn outside the academic day and curricula. Apparently, the search-engine company Google appreciates this, as this month it announced $12 million in grants to a set of science museums (plus a math museum).
"Museums do more than entertain and teach," writes Michael T. Jones, Google's chief technology advocate, in a blog post. "By transforming the curious learners of today into the innovators of tomorrow, museums perpetuate both creativity and accomplishment."
I should mention that EdWeek recently ran a special report, Science Learning Outside the Classroom, which explored in depth many issues in a field often referred to as "informal science education." One article focuses on the powerful role science museums play in educating young people and inspiring them to pursue science. In researching that story, I spoke with museum educators around the country, and visited Explora, a science center in Albuquerque, N.M., which recently won an award from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Also, we'll be hosting a free EdWeek webinar tomorrow at 2 p.m. on this topic of learning science outside the classroom. I'll be the moderator and will be joined by John Falk, a professor of free-choice learning at Oregon State University, and Alan Friedman, the former longtime director of the New York Hall of Science (and member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees NAEP). In December, by the way, I blogged about a recent article Falk cowrote.
Anyway, back to Google's news. The grants were awarded to the Exploratorium in San Francisco, the Museum of Mathematics in New York City, the Museum of Science in Boston, the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago, the New York Hall of Science, and the Science Museum London.
"Our funds are going to meet the diverse needs of the museums, from the construction of new facilities to the development of new exhibitions to new curricula that will extend their work outside of the museum walls," Jones writes in the Google blog post. "As leading destinations for school field trips, museums are touchpoints where students come into contact with science and math."