Part­ner­ship Pro­gram with Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Sci­ence, Boston Sym­phony Orchestra, Boston Public Libraries and Citi Per­forming Arts Center High­lighted as One of the World’s Best

Con­tact: Laura Shea at 617–373-5427

(1–17-07) BOSTON, Mass. — PASTEL (Part­ner­ship for Arts, Sci­ence and TEch­nology Learning), a unique pro­gram ini­ti­ated by North­eastern Uni­ver­sity with many of the city of Boston’s most trea­sured arts, sci­ence and learning insti­tu­tions, is being high­lighted at the upcoming “Sci­ence & Society: Closing the Gap” con­fer­ence as one of the world’s most inno­v­a­tive informal sci­ence pro­grams. PASTEL is a major ini­tia­tive designed to deliver a new gen­er­a­tion of informal sci­ence pro­gram­ming to chil­dren and fam­i­lies in Boston through a col­lab­o­ra­tive con­sisting of North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Sci­ence, the Boston Sym­phony Orchestra, Boston Public Libraries and the Citi Per­forming Arts Center.

PASTEL is based on the premise that oppor­tu­ni­ties abound in every city for engaging the public in sci­ence learning, not only in science-​​focused venues, but also in art museums, con­cert halls and per­for­mance spaces. The city of Boston in par­tic­ular is home to some of the world’s most acclaimed arts insti­tu­tions, but they have typ­i­cally not been seen as places where sci­ence learning hap­pens. PASTEL aims to change that by cre­ating sci­ence learning oppor­tu­ni­ties in these venues: from showing chil­dren the tools used to detect fraud­u­lent art to inves­ti­gating how the music from a sym­phony travels from a musician’s instru­ment to one’s ear. In this way, tens of thou­sands of fam­i­lies are pro­jected to explore the arts through the prism of sci­ence, pro­viding a new kind of cul­tural and edu­ca­tional enrich­ment in the city.

Reaching chil­dren in these venues of choice makes sci­ence learning fun and acces­sible,” said North­eastern Uni­ver­sity physics Pro­fessor Arun Bansil, Project Director of the PASTEL pro­gram, who will be pre­senting the pro­gram at the Sci­ence & Society con­fer­ence. “In order to help the next gen­er­a­tion com­pete in our tech­no­log­ical society, we need to reach them early, and get them excited in unorthodox ways about the breadth of impact of sci­ence and tech­nology in every day life.”

Another unique aspect of PASTEL is that North­eastern is working with Boston Public Libraries to reach out to fam­i­lies and chil­dren in Boston who do not typ­i­cally visit the museums. For this pur­pose, some of the mate­rials devel­oped for use in the museums will be recon­fig­ured and used to excite chil­dren in appro­priate group set­tings in the Boston Public Libraries and Boston’s Com­mu­nity Centers.

Get­ting kids excited about math and sci­ence is one of our most impor­tant edu­ca­tional chal­lenges,” said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, hon­orary chair of PASTEL’s advi­sory board. “But chil­dren are nat­u­rally drawn to art and music, so intro­ducing them to those sub­jects through cul­tural pro­grams is a great idea. PASTEL is a cre­ative ini­tia­tive that will make a real con­tri­bu­tion to the edu­ca­tion of Boston’s youth.”

PASTEL’s pilot pro­gram­ming has been funded by a National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion (NSF) plan­ning grant as part of the Informal Sci­ence Edu­ca­tion (ISE) pro­gram, which invests in projects that develop and imple­ment informal learning expe­ri­ences designed to increase interest, engage­ment, and under­standing of sci­ence, tech­nology, engi­neering, and math­e­matics (STEM) by indi­vid­uals of all ages and back­grounds, as well as projects that advance knowl­edge and prac­tice of informal sci­ence education.

The first pilot pro­gram was held at the MFA in Feb­ruary 2006 during school vaca­tion week, and was called “Artful Ele­ments: The Many Facets of Clay.” Approx­i­mately 1800 people took part in the pro­gram­ming, which included making micro­scope slides to view var­ious mate­rials, studying the rocks that erode to form clay, and learning about glazes and firing. In one demon­stra­tion, chil­dren were asked to hold a gen­uine ceramic space shuttle tile while a facil­i­tator used a small torch to melt a penny on top of it, demon­strating the insu­lating prop­er­ties of ceramics. A second pilot was held in March 2005 at the BSO in asso­ci­a­tion with the BSO’s family con­cert. Called “Artful Ele­ments: The Many Facets of Sound,” the pro­gram served about 320 indi­vid­uals and involved, among other activ­i­ties, using com­puter soft­ware to allow par­tic­i­pants to “see” the sounds the instru­ments made, look at a spectra of their own voices, and try to “morph” one instru­ment into another.

The “Sci­ence & Society: Closing the Gap” con­fer­ence, spon­sored by Part­ners Health­care, will be held Jan­uary 19-​​21st at the Westin Copley Place Hotel in Boston, MA. Al Gore and Shirley Ann Jackson, Pres­i­dent of Rens­se­laer Poly­technic Insti­tute will keynote. PASTEL will be pre­sented on Sat­urday (Jan­uary 20th) after­noon in the 1–3:30 PM con­cur­rent ses­sion B. For more on the con­fer­ence, visit: http://​www​.sci​ence​and​so​ci​ety​con​fer​ence​.com/.

About North­eastern: Founded in 1898, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity is a pri­vate research uni­ver­sity located in the heart of Boston. North­eastern is a leader in inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research, urban engage­ment, and the inte­gra­tion of class­room learning with real-​​world expe­ri­ence. The university’s dis­tinc­tive coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion pro­gram, where stu­dents alter­nate semes­ters of full-​​time study with semes­ters of paid work in fields rel­e­vant to their pro­fes­sional inter­ests and major, is one of the largest and most inno­v­a­tive in the world. The Uni­ver­sity offers a com­pre­hen­sive range of under­grad­uate and grad­uate pro­grams leading to degrees through the doc­torate in six under­grad­uate col­leges, eight grad­uate schools, and two part-​​time divi­sions. For more infor­ma­tion, please visit www​.north​eastern​.edu.