13th Symposium on Education


Scholastics the Magic School Bus Kicks Up a Storm Museum Exhibit

Cheryl D. McCallum, The Children's Museum of Houston, Houston, TX; and L. Nazarani

ABSTRACT For Submission to the AMS 13th Annual Education Symposium The American Meteorological Society

by The Children's Museum of Houston

Scholastic’s The Magic School BusTM Kicks Up a Storm is a comprehensive, hands-on exhibit exploring the concepts of meteorology, data gathering and prediction, and weather reporting. Scholastic Entertainment and the AMS are the primary partners on the project with The Children’s Museum of Houston. The effort is funded in part by the National Science Foundation. The exhibit is based on the award-winning children’s science series, Scholastic’s The Magic School BusTM, the most successful children’s science book series in history. Over the next six years, the exhibit will travel to over 30 science centers and children’s museums. The 2,500 sq.ft exhibit premiered in January 2003 at The Children's Museum of Houston with a second copy launched the following month in New Jersey.

Since its launch, CMH has been involved with the development of key strategies to ensure the exhibit’s success. The first entails the exhibits’ community involvement strategy designed to enhance awareness of the exhibit and its supplemental programmatic materials. The second concerns in-depth evaluation and remediation of the exhibit to ensure that all components are educationally sound and effective. Each of these objectives is beneficial in understanding the potentials of informal learning environments and their role in weather education. We would like to present our findings to AMS either jointly, in both of these areas, or separately during the 2004 and 2005 annual meetings. Further details about each are below.

One of the key exhibit goals is to create awareness and enthusiasm for the exhibit as it travels. To that end, the AMS Board on Outreach and Pre-College Education is assisting with the development of AMS local teams in each host community, to help shepherd the exhibit in their city and build interest toward weather learning that will last well beyond the exhibit’s stay. In Houston, the prototype for this initiative, local AMS members conduct fun weather experiments and demonstrations as part of its “Meet the Meteorologist” Program. Variations of this model are being exported to other science centers and children’s museums as the exhibit travels.

Evaluation of the exhibit for long-term impact, total visitor experience, and learning of key messages will commence in July 2003. Best practices in exhibit evaluation will be employed. Because experiences are personal, unique, and diverse, the evaluation strategy includes a feedback loop that allows individuals to describe their experience. In-depth interviews are useful in evaluation because individuals’ remarks can often explain behaviors, but more importantly, they show how individuals processed their experiences and internalized information. Long-term impact will be assessed with follow-up interviews with visitors three months after their visit to the exhibit. Supplemental program materials will also be evaluated for their use and effectiveness. Preliminary findings will be available by December 2003.

Poster Session 1, Poster Session Educational initiatives (Hall 4AB)
Sunday, 11 January 2004, 5:00 PM-7:00 PM, Hall 4AB

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