Through a four-year, $1.5 million grant provided to the collaborating team of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), the Permafrost project is part of NSF’s Innovations in Development initiative for Advancing Informal STEM Learning. The Permafrost Project builds and expands on a half-century of climate-related education and outreach activities at the nation’s only research permafrost tunnel, located near Fox, Alaska. Using permafrost as a focus, the team is exploring the power of immersive experiences and real objects to improve learning about climate change. At the same time, the project broadens the reach of the tunnel, with its demonstrated ability to get people excited about permafrost, by developing programs and exhibits that will travel throughout Alaska and the rest of the U.S.
Goldstream Group’s evaluation of this project includes formative assessment of travelling Alaska outreach materials, and intensive formative and summative evaluations of the larger travelling museum exhibit spearheaded by OMSI. Through surveys, observations, prototype testing with target audiences, and other research-based methods within the informal science learning and museum studies fields of evaluation, the evaluation will examine the success of the project in areas including participant learning about permafrost- and climate change-related concepts, and participant attitudes about and engagement with climate change.
Our formative evaluation provided data-driven suggestions about refining Alaska-specific and OMSI-created exhibit pieces. The summative evaluation will provide resources for publications related to real vs. fabricated items in museum learning, as well as further programmatic analysis that can inform this projects and similar initiatives into the future.