National Informal STEM Education Network Year in Review 2017

Rae Ostman, Arizona State University
NISE Network

This past year was busy and successful, as hundreds of NISE Network partners across the country participated in Network projects! It’s exciting to have so many organizations dedicated to engaging people in their local communities in learning about current STEM research. Here are some of our favorite Network moments of 2017, together with some indicators of the impact we achieve working together.


First we want to thank all of our NISE Network partners for all you do to engage the public on STEM topics! We’d like to share this short video highlighting just a few of the many inspiring Earth & Space events held across the country this past year!


In 2017, our original nano project came to an end, and we celebrated everything we accomplished during our 11+ years as the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network. During the nano project, we built a network of 600 museums, universities and other organizations dedicated to engaging the public in learning about emerging science, engineering, and technology.

We estimate that by the end of 2017, the Network reached over 50,000,000 people through NanoDays events, the Nano mini-exhibition, and many other public engagement activities! To learn more about our impact, check out the final evaluation report, which synthesizes the results from the project’s many evaluation and research studies, or take a look at the executive summaries for the public impacts and professional impacts.

Zoom into Nano activity at the Sciencenter in Ithaca, New York. Gary Hodges for the NISE Network.


During the final year and a half of the Nano project, 100 partners across the Network used our Explore Science: Zoom into Nano kits to partner with other community organizations and engage diverse audiences in learning about the emerging field of nanoscale science, engineering, and technology. For example, in Shreveport, Louisiana, Sci-Port Discovery Center collaborated with the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Workforce Re-entry Facility to provide incarcerated parents with training to engage in informal STEM learning experiences with their children. Museum educators found that the games included in the kits were especially successful at providing opportunities for the families to reconnect, enjoy themselves, and learn about nanotechnology.

Just recently, the DIY Nano app was named one of Tutorful’s top 60 education apps. This is the latest of several awards for the nanotechnology education app: DIY Nano has also won a Parents’ Choice Silver Medal, was featured in Wired and FamilyFun magazines, and listed as an iPhone app of the week on the Common Sense Media website. The app has over 250,000 downloads!


In our new identity as the National Informal STEM Education Network, we’re collaborating with NASA to bring resources related to Earth and space science to partner organizations across the country. In 2017, NISE Net partners used resources from the 2017 Explore Science: Earth & Space toolkits at museums, schools, libraries, scouting camps, and in other settings. For example, Roper Mountain Science Center in Greenville, South Carolina, partnered with 18 organizations across the upstate region—including NASA, educational institutions, research institutions, and companies in the aerospace and aeronautical industry—to hold a Space Day. In addition to NISE Net activities, event highlights included flight simulators, model rocket launches, Moon rocks, meteorites, and historic NASA artifacts.

We’re especially proud that these local collaborations helped 85% of partners to reach underserved and underrepresented audiences within the first few months of use. (For more information on the use and impact of the toolkits, see the NISE Net 2017 Toolkit Partner Reports Summary.)

Earth and Space event at OMSI in Portland, Oregon. Emily Maletz for the NISE Network.


Many NISE Net partners also used their Earth & Space activities in programming related to the August 21 solar eclipse. For example, NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California provided multiple teacher professional development workshops to prepare regional educators to teach students about the solar eclipse. In addition to using Explore Science: Earth & Space toolkit activities, NASA researchers shared their experiences studying solar eclipses from airborne observatories!


We’re looking forward to another great year in 2018! Here are some of the many NISE Net project activities Network partners can participate in during the coming year.  

Frankenstein200: Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein was published 200 years ago, in 1818. Join Network partners across the country in celebrating the 200th “birthday” of Frankenstein and his creature, through hands-on maker style activities, an online alternate reality game, and more. Download the digital Frankenstein200 kit now, and play the Laboratory for Innovation and Fantastic Explorations (L.I.F.E.) game.

Frankenstein200 activity at The Bakken Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Science Museum of Minnesota for the NISE Network.


Explore Science: Earth & Space: The 2018 Explore Science: Earth & Space digital toolkit will be available by February 1. The all-new 2018 toolkit includes 10 hands-on activities, supporting resources, and training materials. Applications for our small footprint exhibition, Sun, Earth, Universe, will open in early 2018, and we’ll award copies to 50 Network partners. Keep an eye open for the exhibition application announcement in our newsletter.

Explore Science: Earth & Space activity at SMM in St. Paul, Minnesota. Science Museum of Minnesota for the NISE Network.


NanoDays: Our signature event, NanoDays, continues in 2018! This year’s NanoDays dates are March 31-April 8, 2018. You can find all archived NanoDays materials on our website.

Building with Biology: A new public forum on human genome editing will be available online in fall 2018. Building with Biology activities also connect well with the STEM content and focus on responsible innovation in the Frankenstein200 project, so you can use them in your Frankenstein-related programming. In addition, stay tuned for the final Building with Biology evaluation reports, which will be completed later this year.

Building with Biology public forum at the Museum of Science in Boston, Massachusetts. Museum of Science for the NISE Network.


Explore Science: Chemistry: In partnership with the American Chemical Society, NISE Net is developing a kit of hands-on activities that support positive attitudes toward learning chemistry, including interest, sense of relevance, and feelings of self-efficacy. The Network will award 250 copies of the kit for use during or around National Chemistry Week, October 21-27, 2018. The kit application process will be announced in our newsletter in spring 2018.

Chemistry activities under development at the Museum of Science in Boston, Massachusetts. Museum of Science for the NISE Network


Professional Development: NISE Net will continue to offer regular online workshops throughout 2018, related to these projects. Check out our current list of workshops and sign up for our newsletter to be sure you’re aware of all we offer!


Have a great 2018, and stay in touch! Sign up for the NISE Net newsletter, make sure your regional hub leader has your current contact information, and follow us on social networking sites. We love to hear from our partners and share your work with others in the Network!


The Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network was supported by the National Science Foundation under award numbers 0532536 and 0940143. Multi-Site Public Engagement with Science is supported by the National Science Foundation under award number 1421179. Increasing Learning and Efficacy is supported by the National Science Foundation under award number 1516684. ChemAttitudes is supported by the National Science Foundation under award number 1612482. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation.

Space and Earth Informal STEM Education (SEISE) is supported by NASA under cooperative agreement number NNX16AC67A. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).