A Cultural Passport to Learning

A passport is a ticket to adventure and culture when traveling overseas. But Miami-Dade County’s Cultural Passport program, supported by the Knight Foundation, is a ticket for students to experience adventure while staying right here in Miami. And the Miami Science Museum is an awesome stop on that journey. For our Cultural Passport programs, the Museum offered programs for kindergarten and middle school aged students. Content ranged from bees to chemistry to energy, but a common thread was that they took advantage of everything the Museum has to offer – exhibits, live shows, animal encounters, and hands-on activities based on proven educational research.

Our kindergarten program was focused on busy, buzzing bees. This content area was chosen because it relates to featured Museum projects and exhibits. On the project side, it aligns with the Museum’s Early Childhood Hands-On Science (ECHOS) curriculum, a research-based project funded by the Institute for Education Sciences and in partnership with the University of Miami. Through ECHOS, the Museum developed a comprehensive early childhood science curriculum, underscoring the idea that young children can learn science concepts and skills. On the exhibit side, one of the Museum’s newest displays is a live beehive funded by the Junior League of Miami. In the program, students investigated the real beehive, then watched a puppet show called Busy Buzzing Bees, where they learned that bees communicate the location of flowers to other bees by dancing. Then they were encouraged to dance like a bee – in a circle to communicate that flowers were nearby, or in a figure-8 to communicate that flowers were far away. The program also incorporated the Museum’s Wildlife Center, where they learned about our animals, such as the leopard gecko and the ball python. Brave students were even able to touch the animals. As a bonus activity, groups were given the chance to see a planetarium show or explore our interactive exhibitions.

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Kindergarten students investigate some busy buzzing bees at the Miami Science Museum’s live beehive exhibit.

Middle school groups were able to choose between any of the themed field trip options currently offered by the Museum. All themed field trips include a hands-on activity and a live science show related to the chosen theme, as well as the group’s choice of a planetarium show or free time in our exhibits. Field trip themes include Chemistry 101, Energy Works, and Stranded in Space. Energy Works was one of the most popular themes chosen by Cultural Passport groups, as the Museum has a series of exhibits called Energy Tracker, focusing on the conversion of energy from one type to another. As part of this field trip, students participated in the Energy Tracker Challenge, in which groups of 5-7 students compete at different exhibits to see who is most efficient at converting energy from one type to another. The live show related to this theme, Shocking Science, educated students about electrical energy, using a Van de Graaf generator and a Jacob’s Ladder.

We look forward to more amazing adventures with our 2013-2014 Cultural Passport!

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Museum Explainer Sasha Lamadrid electrifies her audience (and herself) by demonstrating how a Van de Graaf generator creates static electricity.

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