Museums as agents of social change and empowerment

Have you ever listened to a child chuckling while she witnesses the robot she designed turn in circles? Have you ever looked into the eyes of a child telling you that he saved for a year to buy a 3-D printer kit because he learned from you that he could build one? Have you ever watched a toddler painstakingly build a maze only to discover it didn’t work, and then build a new one that did?
We have.
Many people don’t think of museums as making social change in communities, but the Maritime Explorium is a rising star on Long Island as a lighthouse of educational programs that foster inventive thinking. We welcome over 10,000 visitors annually, and those children and their families were engaged in smart science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) learning – all while playing and laughing and connecting socially. We are proud of our setting, but the Explorium is more than a place. It is a way of learning and living, and numerous invitations to share our work serve as proof of the success of our programs.
The Maritime Explorium was launched in 2004 by a consortium of scientists, educators and entrepreneurial residents seeking to provide a rich educational STEM experience to the Long Island and NY metro area community. In May of 2005, the Explorium was designated as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit and was chartered with the New York State Department of Education. Our vision is to be a world class leader in STEM discovery, learning and innovation that will shape the intellect, social values and principles of future generations. The Explorium is housed in the historic Chandlery Building in Port Jefferson Village, New York.
The Explorium illustrates the idea that people learn best through minds-on experiences and reflection on those experiences. That is why we offer school-based programs that reach another 3,000 students, as we teach scores of educators how to lead inquiry-rich, experiential classrooms. We help people of all ages who come to us thinking that science is boring, or math is hard, or art is easy, or tech is for geeks or engineering is for boys – and we help them realize that we are all lifelong STEAM citizens living, playing and working in our STEAM world. We are our area’s largest Mini Maker Faire that has welcomed over 5,000 in the past three years.
We seek social justice. The Explorium makes STEAM education accessible to all. We work collaboratively with Hofstra University and Stony Brook University to develop offerings based on leading edge studies on how people meaningfully learn, and we work closely with many community agencies to bring our forward thinking programs to school districts across Long Island, especially schools in high-need communities. Our partnerships with the private sector and community organizations aim to create a robust ecosystem of committed and passionate stakeholders determined to nurture the future generation. We are all responsible for ensuring the success of our young, both in play and study. Let’s work together to bring about a social change through the empowerment of our young using innovative learning strategies in STEAM.

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