Communities of Learning for Urban Environments and Science



The Philadelphia/Camden Informal Science Education Collaborative (PISEC) was formed in 1992 when four major Philadelphia informal science institutions—The Franklin Institute, the Philadelphia Zoo, The Academy of Natural Sciences, and The New Jersey State Aquarium—joined to conduct research and outreach projects in support of family science learning. CLUES is the fifth project for PISEC.

Family Learning in Museums

The Family Science Learning Project, from 1994 to 1998, was a research and development project funded by the National Science Foundation and Pew Charitable Trusts to find out how families learn science in informal settings. It led to the development of a new model for exhibit design based on 7 characteristics of Family-Friendly Exhibits.

The project publication, Family Learning in Museums: the PISEC Perspective, now a text for exhibit design, is available through the Association of Science-Technology Centers (

Working Together Community Connections, from 1995 to 1999, was the second project in this evolving series. Community Connections was an outreach program designed to diversify museum audiences and to introduce families to science museums and family science learning. The project reached 17,000 people from 8 community partner agencies working with African-American and Latino families. Working Together, the project handbook, is still widely used in the community.

FEST Families Exploring Science Together, FEST, began in 1999 and ran through 2003. FEST was an outreach project that served over 14,000 people from 11 community partner agencies, serving African-American, Latino, and Asian families. Families were invited to science workshops and Family Science Events at the museums and community partners offered orientations to prepare families to be a part of FEST.

The FEST publication, Staying Connected, offers families many opportunities to stay involved in science learning in fun, family oriented ways.

CASE: Community Ambassadors in Science Exploration Community Ambassadors in Science Exploration (CASE) served over 15,000 people during three years, with peer-presented family learning opportunities and museum experiences. In addition, CASE trained a total of 88 SCIENCE AMBASSADORS who offered science workshops at community-based organizations in the languages spoken by their member families. Through CASE, the ambassadors gained training and experience in informal science education that can open the door to possible future career opportunities in community and museum settings.

In Their Own Voices

"In Their Own Voices" tells the story of fully engaged individuals who had participated in PISEC programs over the years and seeks to understand what made them become so involved. We found that they are not linked by a demographic category like mother's education or science background. Rather, they are creative, intelligent, resourceful people who saw what this program could do for their families. They are very different from one another, and that is where the idea for the "In Their Own Voices" book was born.

Museum Community Partnerships

"Museum/Community Partnerships: Lessons Learned from the Bridges Conference" presents the results of 2008 conference that explored how museums and other learning institutions and community organizations (CBOs) can work together towards a shared vision of engaging underserved families in enrichment activities. The BRIDGES conference brought together museum and community pairs from 25 partnerships to explore best practices for developing and sustaining these innovative programs. The conference provided opportunities for participants to meet others engaged in similar efforts, to share triumphs and tragedies, and to build an ongoing community of practice.

© 2012 - All Rights Reserved. Contact: