I reached out to Rebecca Bray, the chief of experience development at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., to learn about how the museum developed and now runs its innovative Q?rius (pronounced “curious”) space, opened in 2013 as an interactive and educational lab with microscopes, touch screens, interactive activities and a “collection zone,” housing over 6,000 different specimens and artifacts visitors can handle. In our conversation below, we explore their design process, the role of youth learners, the pros and cons of integrating digital media into a hands-on learning space, and more.
Books. Laptops. Construction paper. Text books. Desks. Bells. Backpacks. Pens. Smart board styluses. White boards. LCD projectors. Hall passes. The list goes on. The spaces of learning — whether we are discussing classrooms, libraries, extracurricular clubs — are full of a lot of tangible stuff. However, if we want to improve learning, the gaze of educators needs to look beyond the materiality of classrooms and closer at the individuals within these spaces. We need to consider how the relationships between participants in learning spaces captivate and thrill. Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with Marjorie Faulstich Orellana,
How might mediums for writing in school libraries be opportunities to grow academic literacies for students across different grades and academic tracks? How might these opportunities to engage in both individual and collaborative writing experiences as pathways to academic literacies close participation gaps and make literacy as a social practice more visible to students and teachers (Kiili, Mäkinen, and Coiro 224)? I recently partnered with teachers Sean O’Connor, Dan Bynre, and James Glenn to incorporate writing literacies as part of larger inquiry activities for two very different classes: 9th-grade Language Arts and IB Theory of Knowledge. Formulating