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NISE Net at its Peak and Exploring New Possibilities

Larry Bell

Even as our ten years of funding from the National Science Foundation comes to an end, the NISE Net's capacity to reach the public is at its peak! The numbers in our year-10 annual report show a total of 598 organizations that regularly participate in NISE Net activities, of which 352 are museums or other kinds of informal science education groups, 203 are groups from universities, and 43 are a variety of other kinds of organizations.

Over 1600 NanoDays kits have been distributed throughout the country and partners report using them for all kinds of programming all during the year, not just for NanoDays. Nearly 200 mini-grants have allowed partners to adapt and incorporate nano educational activities into ongoing programs, to use them to bring nano education to underserved and under-represented audiences, and to build new partnerships around nano education and outreach. Soon a total of 93 Nano mini-exhibitions will have been deployed across the U.S., some stationary and some shared at a total of 149 organizations. And with the full deployment of mini-exhibitions, NISE Net educational resources reach over 10 million members of the public each year!!!

The is the number we know of and are able to conservatively estimate from what we know. This estimate incorporates use of NanoDays kits outside of NanoDays and during NanoDays, and the reach of the Nano mini-exhibition. So even though our main NISE Net grant is ending, we are an organization at peak capacity for reaching public audiences.

We have been talking with a variety of people about this and some of those conversations have already turned into spin-off projects. The most closely connected spin-off is being made possible by a supplement to our NISE Net award from NSF that will allow us to develop a kit of materials to support museum and community youth-serving organization partnerships. We'll be able to make 100 copies of the kit to distribute to NISE Net partners that would like to participate.  More information about the Museums and Community Partnerships project is coming soon and will explain what this project is all about and how to apply for kits in the fall of 2015.

Another spin-off that's been underway since last October is the "Multi-Site Public Engagement with Science-Synthetic Biology" project. This mouthful of a title has been replaced with the public program title Building with Biology. A dozen NISE Net partner organizations have been working on prototype educational activities and showed some of them off at the recent Network-Wide Meeting in Saint Paul, MN. These prototype activities will be tested this summer at eight pilot sites across the U.S. and what we learn will inform the development of a kit of materials for use in the summer of 2016 and beyond. The AISL award for this project (DRL-1421179) will allow us to make 200 copies of the Building with Biology kit. More information about this project and how to apply for a kit early in 2016 is coming soon.

Another project already underway is aimed at engaging the public in sustainability through the educational power of science centers and museums. This project will produce 50 kits (or more) in each of two years 2017 and 2018.  Kits will include hands-on activities and programs to stimulate conversations as well as professional development and collaboration materials. More information about the Sustainability in Science Museums project will be coming soon. Applications will be due in the fall of 2016 and 2017.

And this is just the start. We are actively exploring a number of other possibilities over the summer. It's not over. So let me offer these words, which Paul and I quoted numerous times at the meeting in Saint Paul:

TAKE THE LEAD on building upon your NISE Net experience, go forth and do great things, and bring ideas and projects back to your colleagues in the NISE Net.

USE THE TOOLS to continue to engage audiences in learning about nano and to build the capacities of your colleagues and your institutions on topics beyond nano.

STAY IN TOUCH because there is still a lot going on and continuing to work together, we can continue to do great things.