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ASTC to Honor Museum of Science Senior Vice President Larry Bell with Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Award

October 16, 2015

Boston, Mass. – On October 19, 2015, the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) will honor Larry Bell, Museum of Science, Boston senior vice president of strategic initiatives, with the Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Award for Leadership in the Field. The presentation will occur in the Palais de congress de Montreal, Quebec, Canada, during ASTC's annual conference.

"Larry Bell has an unsurpassed knowledge of -- and passion for -- informal STEM education," says Anthony (Bud) Rock, ASTC president and CEO. "A fantastic partner on important projects that serve our entire field, he has earned tremendous respect from his peers and richly deserves the Leading Edge Award that he is receiving."

Visionary Leadership in Lifelong Science and Technology Learning

In recognizing Bell's impact, ASTC highlighted three innovations that have shaped visitor engagement with science across the field of informal science education: his groundbreaking Science Is an Activity exhibit plan; Forums, a new museum learning model for informed decision-making; and a first-of-a-kind national Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network involving the public in cutting-edge science, engineering, and technology.

  • Bell conceived the Museum's Science Is an Activity strategic exhibit plan to create hands-on experiences offering visitors practice in applying science thinking skills to problem-solving. These playful exhibits asked them to observe, compare, classify, create models, experiment, think, and draw their own conclusions like scientists, rather than just learn science facts.
  • He launched Forums at the Museum of Science to engage adults with diverse views and backgrounds in deliberations with scientists, policymakers, and each other about often controversial societal issues that can be informed, but not answered, by science and technology, such as what we should do about global warming or how we should use genetic engineering. Other museums across the country also use this model.
  • As principal investigator of a $41 million National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded initiative, Bell led the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISE® Network), building a community of informal science educators and university research scientists to advance public understanding of nanotechnology. The NISE Network has grown to 598 organizations in 50 states. By December 2015, the network will have reached 30 million people through public programs, events, and exhibits.

"We are thrilled by ASTC's recognition of Larry. His extraordinary intellect, creativity, and vast experience in the design of interactive exhibits and programs have shaped the educational process and impact of the Museum for over four decades," says Museum of Science president and director Ioannis Miaoulis.

For Bell, "Designing exhibits and programs to engage visitors in discovery has been both exciting and fun. Science museums are playgrounds for the mind. And, while creating experiences to build dialogue and informed decision-making skills about complex issues is new intellectual territory for museums, it is critical for putting science and technology to work in the world we all live in. Societal values influence the application of science as much as the science itself does.  Scientific and public communities need places to discuss the issues."

More on Bell

A "life-changing experience" as an MIT senior sparked Bell's career in informal science education. He was producing a multimedia "happening" about the Crab Nebula with the late MIT physicist and theoretical astronomer Philip Morrison. The event involved exhibits, Chinese shadow puppets, a bank of flash bulbs, and science. Bell realized he was interested in "teaching that was more showbiz than classroom." After his 1971 graduation with a B.S. in physics and an M.S. in earth and planetary sciences, he brought his love of experimenting and "figuring stuff out" to the Museum. He's been there ever since, masterminding and guiding the development of ingenious exhibitions and programs. A Tewksbury, Massachusetts, resident, Bell is in touch with his NISE Net partners 24-7 and rarely without his laptop, iPad, and iPhone.

About ASTC

The Association of Science Technology Centers (ASTC) is a global organization providing collective voice and professional support for science centers, museums, and related institutions, whose innovative approaches to science learning inspire people of all ages about the wonders and the meaning of science in their lives. Founded in 1973, ASTC now represents over 640 members in nearly 50 countries. For more information, visit www.astc.org. For ASTC release on all Leading Edge Award recipients: http://www.astc.org/about-astc/news-reports/.

About the Museum of Science, Boston

One of the world's largest science centers and Boston's most attended cultural institution, the Museum of Science introduces nearly 1.4 million visitors a year to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) via dynamic programs and hundreds of interactive exhibits. Highlights include The Science Behind Pixar, the Hall of Human Life, Thomson Theater of Electricity, Charles Hayden Planetarium, Mugar Omni Theater, Gordon Current Science & Technology Center, 4-D Theater, and Butterfly Garden. Reaching over 20,000 teens a year worldwide via the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network, the Museum is also the nation's first science center with a comprehensive strategy and infrastructure to foster technological literacy in science museums and schools across the United States. Its National Center for Technological Literacy® received the National Science Board's Public Service Award in 2015 and has reached an estimated 9.4 million students and 99,700 teachers since 2004 via its K-12 curricula. Visit: http://www.mos.org.

Press Contact

Erin Shannon: 617-589-0250 or eshannon@mos.org