EVOLUTIONS After School Program

Organization Name:
Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
City & State:
Describe your creative piece – what is it and what has it been used for, and why is it innovative?
EVOLUTIONS (EVOking Learning & Understanding Through Investigations Of the Natural Sciences) is a free after school program for inner city teens focusing on science literacy, college prep & 21st century skills development. It serves 125 students in greater New Haven, CT & participants earn grades which are recorded on their high school transcripts. Each year students conceptualize, design & build a science-themed museum exhibition. Students work with the Museum's graphics department to learn Photoshop, which is used to develop all signage. This year's exhibition - The Geographic Theater - includes student-produced videos that teach a CT state earth science standard intended for students K-8. Our students decided to design our exhibit space to resemble a movie theater complete with movie posters. Our submission includes examples of posters designed in Photoshop. Students start by drawing pictures, scanning them and then use Photoshop to edit, color and add effects to their posters.
What issue or problem were you working to address with this piece?
The proportion of students who say they like STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering & math) declines precipitously between elementary & high school. This is due, in large, to how science is taught in the formal school environment & is an attitude most prevalent among ethnic minorities & women. Given that the proportion of ethnic minority students will surpass that of Caucasian students in coming decades, this problem will become greatly exacerbated. Informal science programs such as EVOLUTIONS have the opportunity to step outside of constraints imposed by the formal education system & high stakes testing to reshape student perceptions regarding STEM. We do this through a skills focused, hands-on approach catering to a variety of learning styles that proactively incorporates the use of computers and the development of software skills.
How has your submission successfully impacted your organization’s ability to solve this issue/problem?
Program evaluation, which has been conducted externally since the program began in 2005, has verified the success of our approach. We are changing the way students perceive what it means to be a scientist and are opening their eyes to a variety of science-related disciplines that bridge the realms of science and art, specifically museum exhibit graphic design. And these benefits aren’t only realized by students in the program. Exhibitions designed by our students who hail from the local community are popular with visitors, specifically other teens, from the local community. This has lead to an increased visitorship by local ethnic minority families which has further enabled the museum to accomplish its goals related to engaging local communities in discourse related to environmental justice and environmental stewardship. This is facilitated by incorporating student participant’s pictures and/or school information on each of the graphic panels they’ve created.