People watching a 3D movie

Quick! What do you think when you hear “Education”?

If you’re like many people, you thought “School.” But of course people are always learning, no matter their age and regardless of whether they’re being graded. All that out-of-school, life-long learning is the reason for the term “informal education.”

Since 2002, JPL’s Informal Education group has run NASA’s Museum Alliance, providing museums and other informal education institutions with access to NASA staff, resources and professional development.

More than 700 organizations around the world – not just museums, but also planetariums, science centers, libraries, parks, observatories, camps, nature centers, and youth-serving organizations – are Museum Alliance members. They in turn share those NASA resources with their own audiences, through exhibitions and programming.

Last summer’s historic flyby of Pluto illustrates the impact of this approach. Museum Alliance members were kept up to date on the mission and image-release timeline, received New Horizons giveaways for their visitors, were able to speak directly with mission scientists, received training on related hands-on activities, and were given all the latest links, social media resources and downloadable graphics.

Numerically, these Museum Alliance organizations put on almost 2,000 Pluto-focused events in 36 states and eight countries. But more important, they were able to use this teachable moment to serve their audiences – diverse audiences who came with a broad range of experiences and interests.

They helped people learn when no one “had to” learn anything – and not just about Pluto. Every day, Museum Alliance members build on the intrinsically inspiring work of NASA in order to encourage people’s natural drive to know more, a drive that is itself at the heart of NASA’s mission.

> Visit the Museum Alliance website to learn more about the program and its members.

TAGS: Museum Alliance, Informal Education

  • Amelia Chapman