Mutual Concerns – Air and Space Museums Introduced to NGCP

Contributed by Maxine Scheer

As part of increased focus by the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP) on specific industries, Karen Peterson, CEO and Co-Principal Investigator of NGCP chaired a panel in April 2014 at a national conference sponsored by the Smithsonian National Air and Space MuseumMutual Concerns of Air and Space Museums. Panel members also included Julia Cannell, Public Programs Manager for Seattle’s Museum of Flight, Tam O’Shaughnessy, Cofounder and CEO of Sally Ride Science, and Maxine Scheer, President of Scheer Intelligence. The panel came to the event with a message and a mission - “Collaborate to Increase Air and Space Museum’s Capacity to Serve Girls in STEM”.

Speed NetworkingKaren Peterson kicked off the panel with an NGCP signature “speed networking” activity to energize and engage audience members in a collaborative discussion about needs and resources. Karen described the background of NGCP and highlighted the scale and reach, noting the program’s rapid geographic growth, connecting 28 collaboratives with close to 13,000 programs in nearly forty states, serving 8 million girls and 4 million boys. She encouraged attendees to apply the research and tools available to them through NGCP, Sally Ride Science and other gender-equity programs and consider the many benefits of collaboration.

Julia Cannell posed questions to museum colleagues on the need for a ‘girls’ collaborative project and the benefits to museums, ‘what do you need to inspire and where will ‘they’ (girls) find their inspiration?”

Julia drew examples from the Museum of Flight’s participation in NGCP, noting mini-grants, access to women role models for programs such as “Women Fly”, resources to enlist industry participants in numerous events and resource fairs, in addition to bringing more visitors to the museum’s growing range of programs. She also shared her personal story of how a family role model – her father, inspired her aviation career.

Tam O’Shaughnessy of Sally Ride Science (SRS) reviewed research findings on igniting and sustaining youth interest in STEM and its increasing importance to the nation. Tam highlighted National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) findings on the equivalent interest and aptitude of both girls and boys in science and math, and the need for early outreach and support, especially at the 3rd and 4th grade levels.

Illustrations produced by girls in middle-school provided insight into their perceptions of what a scientist looks like. “In almost all cases, it is some version of Einstein or at best, a woman, standing alone wearing a lab coat”. O’Shaughnessy encouraged conference participants to pay close attention to providing diverse role models.

Tam also introduced SRS EarthKAM founded by the late astronaut Sally Ride. “Sally was concerned about STEM education and inspiring the interest of more girls. She convinced NASA that installing a camera on the International Space Station, and allowing teachers and students to learn about Earth from the unique perspective of space, could inspire more interest in STEM.” 

Panel Image

Maxine Scheer brought an industry perspective and outlined the anticipated benefits of air and space museums taking on the mission of collaborating with girl-serving programs. 

“While aviation and aerospace are synonymous with STEM, most of the general public is unaware of the unique strengths of aviation education in many subject areas and inspiring key attributes of success in any STEM discipline - persistence, self-confidence and self-efficacy,” said Maxine as she highlighted the wide range of after-school programs, summer camps, and other education resources provided by Mutual Concerns participants. 

“There are many commonalities to the capacity and isolation issues resulting from the prolific growth of girl-serving initiatives and the prolific growth of air and space museums over the last 50+ years,” said Scheer referring to NGCP’s research on creating a tipping point to the gender-equity movement.

“You are a STEM-rich community and place-based asset”, said Scheer, “and similar to many NGCP participants, the constraints you face can be improved and strengthened with increased collaboration.” Ms. Scheer shared the results of a scan of NGCP’s directory where only eleven of an estimated 800+ aviation-related museums in the U.S. are members of NGCP. Most of these museums are located on one of over 5,000 public-use airports throughout the nation. “Within an hour’s drive of every air and space museum are hundreds of STEM programs that would benefit from a collaboration.” Examples for potential collaborations included children’s museums, where aviation-themes are prolific and popular, humanitarian aspects of aviation, and aviation-themed programs in formal education and after-school programs.

The aviation and space industries have a broad and unique range of education and outreach programs intended to inspire interest in many disciplines associated with STEM. 

Maxine Scheer

As representation of girls and minorities in aviation and space has lagged behind the progress of many STEM fields, we hope to see an increase in interest by air and space museums in active collaboration with NGCP participants and champions.

Maxine Scheer is an independent research and management consultant in aviation, transportation and construction.  She specializes in stakeholder relationship mapping to improve decision-making, collaboration and strategic outreach initiatives.