Texas A&M engineers, schoolteachers work together on museum exhibit

November 27, 2001

COLLEGE STATION - Firefighters take them, so do astronauts and construction workers. It's what draws gamblers to casinos. People encounter risks every day, and it doesn't matter whether they're fighting fires or rolling the dice. "Risk" is the theme of a Texas A&M program that has brought together Texas schoolteachers and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History to assemble a museum exhibit that will teach schoolchildren and museum visitors all about risk. Texas A&M environmental engineer Robin Autenrieth said the exhibit, which is called "RISK!" and opens in March in Fort Worth, will explain to people what "risk" is and what risks can be found in people's lives. Autenrieth and Texas A&M agricultural engineer Patti Haan lead the A&M side of the project. "One of the nice things about the display on risk is that it takes topics like statistics and probability and provides kids with real-life examples that touch them," she said. "It gives them a context and makes ?risk' real for them." The project is part of the Information Technology in Science (ITS) - Center for Teaching and Learning, which is administered by the Texas Engineering Experiment Station and funded by the National Science Foundation. ITS held several workshops over the summer in which schoolteachers worked with museum officials to decide exhibit topics and how to present the information in a way easily understood by a 7th-grade audience, which is the average education level of people visiting museums, Autenrieth said. The teachers had some great ideas because they are in the business of conveying information to people in that age group, she said. They came up with ideas that museum officials were able to take back and use. The teachers also drafted lesson plans based on the exhibit. These lesson plans can be used by other schoolteachers to reinforce what their students see while visiting the museum. "Bringing in the teachers to help design the displays expanded the impact of the display well beyond the doors of the museum, which is what the museum was interested in accomplishing," Autenrieth said. "All of us were able to learn something new from the experience." Charlie Walter, senior vice president of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, said working with Autenrieth and ITS provided the exhibit with some amazing glimpses into scientific risk assessment work being conducted by Texas A&M in Azerbaijan. "This work will help us translate the exhibit experience into classrooms across the country as the exhibit tours," he said. "Teachers and parents will be able to visit the exhibit, then take home additional resources or download them from our website that will extend the exhibit and provide for a deeper learning experience." The exhibit will not only be used in Fort Worth but will also travel to museums in Boston; Columbus, Ohio; Los Angeles; Philadelphia, Penn.; St. Paul, Minn.; and Portland, Ore. NR 937, 11/27/01

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