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NanoDays Training for Museum Education Newbies

Vrylena Olney

If you're a researcher, there's a big difference between talking about nano with fellow classmates, colleagues, or professors, and talking about nano with hundreds of Museum of Science visitors on a Saturday afternoon. NanoDays at our institution generally means lots of help from a cadre of graduate students. As smart and enthusiastic as our volunteers are, they're also often new to doing demonstrations and activities with public audiences.

The Strategic Projects group at the Museum of Science developed a training and handouts for our newbie volunteers, which they kindly shared with me.  The training is led by two educators, is 2 hours long, and works best with 10 - 25 volunteers.

Enjoy, because I may be paying for these through hours of nanotube balloon tying in the Museum Lobby during NanoDays.

Here's the outline:

Introduction to Sharing Science with Hands-On Demonstrations. (20 minutes)

  • Why do hands-on demos? To catch people’s attention and get them asking questions. What is goal and what’s a good hands-on demo?
  • The two museum educators act out a BAD Demo. The Bad Demo includes: a distracted demonstrator on cell phone, no hook to attract visitors, too much technical jargon at first, visitor is not allowed to touch materials so the demonstrator does the demo himself, gives away the aha moment ("so what you're about to see is..."), doesn't allow for or address questions, when interupted by visitor who doesn't understand technical jargon he dumbs down the demo so much he's using words appropriate for a 3 yr old, etc.
  • Pair-Share between audience members followed by full group discussion. Trainees talk with a partner about the 3 worst parts of the bad demo. Report back to group. Whole group reviews Nanoscience Demonstrators Guide.

Hands-On Demonstrations - Small Group Practice & Coaching (30 minutes)

Split into small groups (2-3 trainees), each assigned to one of the NanoDays Kit Demos.

  • 20 minutes for exploring the materials/instructions, instructor guidance, and planning demo with checklist.
  • 10 minutes for practicing demo with another group. Others watch and give feedback. Make suggestions for improvement. Then switch groups.

Rotation – Present your Demo, Experience Other Demos, Offer Feedback (45 minutes)

  • Rotation 1. A pair from each group stays to present, rest of group acts as visitors to experience the other demos. Offer feedback.
  • Rotation 2. Presenters and visitors switch.

Debrief and Discussion (10 minutes)

  • Discuss with neighbors the best/worst part of experience. What was challenging? What did you learn? Report back and share with group.
  • Wrap-Up. Tie it all together – how can we catch people’s attention, get them interested, and get them asking questions? Creating your own demos?

Next Steps

The museum educators encourage trainees to sign up for "practicum" with museum visitors and/or NanoDays.


You can get in touch with Carol Lynn Alpert if you specific questions about the training.

Attached Files
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The_Nanoscience_Demonstrators_Guide.doc (34 KB) 34 KB