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In 2011, UMass Lowell hosted the Carbon Smarts Conference. The Carbon Smarts Conference brought together accomplished individuals from a wide array of disciplines to explore the use of Out-of-Home Media (OOHM) to foster informal science learning about climate change. Experts from Informal Science Education, Marketing & Communication, Climate Science, and Psychology shared research and experiences associated with the public communication of climate change science. Cool Science emerged from the interdisciplinary discussions that the conference promoted.
Out-of-Home Media (OOHM) is any form of communication that an individual might experience while out of the home. In the Cool Science project, OOHM refers to the advertising spaces on the inside and outside of buses as well as posters at the main terminal. If these spaces are so effective at selling products and services to the riders and pedestrians, why not use the spaces to foster learning about science? There have been a few examples of science learning campaigns on mass transit, but the Cool Science project will be the first that utilizes student generated artwork as its focus.
Since its inception, Cool Science has received thousands of entries from K-12 students from cities and towns throughout Massachusetts. Each year, six winning entries are put on public display throughout the Lowell Regional Transit Authority so riders can appreciate and learn from the student works of art. Our research to date indicates that there is a very positive reaction to the artwork and a desire to see more. In addition to the six winners, six runner-ups and six honorable mentions are recognized at a ceremony on the UMass Lowell campus each spring. Teachers and parents are recognized at this ceremony as well.