BOSTON – Hey, have you seen the ostriches? If you ride the MBTA Red and Orange lines, you will.
Ostriches are the central characters of ScienceToGo.org, a multimedia, informal learning campaign designed to engage the 500,000 commuters who ride the two T lines daily.
Funded by a $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the 14-month project that launched today is the work of educators, researchers and communications experts who are committed both to environmental awareness and to bringing science education out of the classroom and into everyday life. The team behind the project is made up of representatives of UMass Lowell, the Museum of Science, Hofstra University, UMass Boston, Goodman Research Group and the MBTA.
ScienceToGo.org comes at a critical time in researchers’ understanding of climate science. In a report released this week, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that based on the evidence, it is “extremely likely” that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming. (The report can be found at www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/#.UkyFMoYjIp0
.) This month is also the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which some scientists believe was fueled by warmer oceans and higher sea levels.
ScienceToGo.org makes T trains a traveling classroom
The project is intended both to educate the public about the science behind climate change and to research the efficacy of this brand-new approach to teaching, which uses posters and placards on subway cars and station platforms to communicate with the public. The campaign features a flock of ostriches, who, instead of keeping their heads in the sand on the important issue, will share insights about climate change and how the public can get involved to avert its potential consequences.
ScienceToGo.org posters and placards will change each month, as the flock inspires commuters to learn about climate change by visiting www.sciencetogo.org
, engaging on Twitter with @BostonOstrich
or via Facebook at www.facebook.com/sciencetogo
and through a variety of smartphone applications available throughout the campaign.
To kick off the campaign, Ozzie the Ostrich, a life-sized figure of a real ostrich, is making appearances on Thursday, Oct. 3 and Friday, Oct. 4 on Boston Common near the entrance to Park Street station and on the Rose Kennedy Greenway near Chinatown Gateway Plaza. The 8-foot cutout will help introduce the public to ScienceToGo.org and will make future appearances in other locations as the campaign continues.
Preliminary research conducted for ScienceToGo.org showed mass-transit systems could serve as a traveling classroom, as 80 percent of the MBTA riders surveyed responded they were interested in learning more about climate science, said Prof. David Lustick of UMass Lowell’s Graduate School of Education, who is leading the project.
“Only 17 percent of the average American’s life is spent inside a formal school setting and most adults learn informally,” Lustick said. “Our goal is to engage the riding public with climate-change science as a local and global phenomenon. If successful, the cost-effective model could be used on mass-transit systems across the country to address any socially relevant science topic.”
“The Museum of Science is always experimenting with new educational methods and learning how to reach a broader population,” said David Rabkin, the museum’s director for current science and technology. “We are excited to partner on this project because it gives us the opportunity to explore new methods of communicating about science, and to work with a great group of partners on making the complex and confusing topic of climate change accessible to everyone.”
The MBTA has provided pro-bono advertising space on placards and car cards for ScienceToGo.org. Two communications agencies, Brodeur Partners and Bowman Global Change, with designer Ed Hackley, developed the campaign’s creative concept and design after seeking input from an advisory board that included representatives from the MBTA, the Smithsonian Institution and other organizations.
“The subway provides an interesting context to educate Bostonians about climate change or any other topic,” said Rick Wilson, associate professor of marketing and international business, who represents Hofstra on the project. “Subway riders represent a captive audience and many people in this environment welcome the distraction that advertising provides, especially if they’re able to learn something new or be entertained.”
“ScienceToGo is an innovative way for scientists to realize the broader impacts of their research by going straight to the public where they commute to work every day,” said Robert Chen, a professor of environmental, earth and ocean sciences at UMass Boston.
The ScienceToGo.org team includes:
UMass Lowell – David Lustick and Jill Lohmeier, professors in UMass Lowell’s Graduate School of Education. Lustick, who specializes in science education, leads the ScienceToGo.org team in developing the science-learning campaign for mass transit. Lohmeier, whose expertise is in educational psychology and research methods, oversees the project’s evaluations and is working on the campaign’s development.
Museum of Science, Boston – David Rabkin, Farinon Director for Current Science and Technology and director of the Charles Hayden Planetarium.
UMass Boston – Robert Chen, professor of environmental, earth and ocean sciences. A co-leader of the project, he provides the group with scientific expertise and extensive knowledge about educating the public about climate change and the environment.
Hofstra University – Rick Wilson, associate professor of marketing and international business in Hofstra University’s Zarb School of Business. He is helping to design, develop and evaluate the advertising aimed at accomplishing the project’s goals.
UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its 17,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health and environment, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers. www.uml.edu
The Museum of Science, Boston: One of the world’s largest science centers and Boston’s most attended cultural institution, the Museum introduces about 1.5 million visitors a year to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) via dynamic programs and interactive exhibits. Founded in 1830, the Museum was first to embrace all the sciences under one roof. Highlights include the Thomson Theater of Electricity, Charles Hayden Planetarium, Mugar Omni Theater, Gordon Current Science & Technology Center, 3-D Digital Cinema and Butterfly Garden. The Museum’s “Science is an Activity” exhibit plan has influenced science centers worldwide. The Museum has been recognized by Boston and Cambridge for its energy efforts. Visit www.mos.org. Follow the Museum of Science on Twitter at @MuseumOfScience or Facebook at www.facebook.com/museumofscience.
Recognized for its innovative research addressing complex issues, the University of Massachusetts Boston, metropolitan Boston’s only public university, offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s ten colleges and graduate schools serve 16,000 students while engaging local, national and international constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service activities. To learn more about UMass Boston, visit www.umb.edu.
Hofstra University is a dynamic private institution of higher education where more than 11,000 full- and part-time students choose from undergraduate and graduate offerings in liberal arts and sciences, business, engineering, education, health and human services, honors studies, communications, the Maurice A. Deane School of Law and the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. www.hofstra.edu