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Museums aim to revamp science education

Amelia Cooper/Sun Star Reporter
Feb. 21, 2012

UAF West Ridge buildings will host the annual AIM-UP conference from Feb. 20 2012 until Feb. 22 2012. Baptiste Haentjens / Sun Star

The UA Museum of the North is holding a three-day long seminar to help science teachers become better educators. The event began Monday and is focusing on how to make undergraduate biology courses better for both the teacher and the student.

AIM-UP! stands for “Advancing Integration of Museums into Undergraduate Programs.” It is a five-year project funded by the National Science Foundation. AIM-UP! promotes museum-based learning through seminars, undergraduate training and collaboration, according to the AIM-UP! website.

The program will address five topics, one for each year of the project. This is the second year. This year’s theme is “Decoding Diversity: Making Sense of Geographic Variation.” 

The national conference is in Fairbanks at Alaska’s participating museum, the UA Museum of the North. The conference, titled “Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education,” focuses on re-evaluating the way biology is taught in an undergraduate setting, according to the organization’s website. The conference-goers also will discuss how to make better use of museums’ cyber-infrastructure. The conference agenda is available online.

The conference, held Feb. 20-22,  is for educators, not students. However, the museum organized a split graduate-undergraduate seminar course that follows the same AIM-UP! theme. The course, “Integrating Morphological and Geographic Variation into the Classroom,” meets at 10a.m. in Butrovich 212B.

“We are streaming the class from Fairbanks, with participants at the University of New Mexico, UC Berkeley and Harvard,” UAF Herbarium Curator Steffi Ickert-Bond said in an email interview.

There are also museum apprenticeships available for credit “for students that already have experience in museum science,” Ickert-Bond said

“The University of Alaska Museum of the North is Alaska’s de facto repository of natural history specimens and cultural objects, and we house multiple world-class research collections,” Kevin Winker wrote of the apprenticeships on the museum’s apprenticeship website, www.museumresearchapprentice.org.

UAF Museum of the North was one of the first museums to get involved with the NSF Research Coordination Network, whose aim is expanding their natural history databases. Baptiste Haentjens / Sun Star

AIM-UP! a Research Coordination Network founded by the Natural Science Foundation, began in May 2010 as a collaborative project between four schools: Harvard University, the University of New Mexico, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Alaska. The founders planned to create an accessible network of science-related resources and experiences. Today, the AIM-UP! network extends across the United States and into Canada.

AIM-UP!’s next outreach event is a 2012 two-day spring seminar at the University of New Mexico, according to the AIM-UP! website. The seminar aims to assemble interdisciplinary knowledge not only over fields of science, but also history and art. Students who cannot make the commute to New Mexico can still participate through teleconference and email.

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