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 inter-disciplinary discussions that the conference promoted.
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.
In the 2012-2013 academic year, Cool Science was a very successful program. We received nearly 600 entries from K-12 students representing more than a dozen districts Massachusetts. Six winning entries were put on public display throughout the Lowell Regional Transit Authority from January through June. Riders could appreciate and learn from these student works of art which were found on the outside of buses, inside of buses, and at the Gallagher Terminal. Our research to date indicates that there was a very positive reaction to the artwork and a desire to see more. In addition, we had six Runner-Ups and 12 Honorable Mentions. All 24 winning students, teachers, and parents were honored at a spring ceremony on the UMass Lowell campus.