Communities of Learning for Urban Environments and Science

Communities of Learning for Urban Environments and Science (CLUES) is a 5-year program that focuses on teaching science to families in communities of the Philadelphia-Camden region. It is a collaboration between the New Jersey Academy for Aquatic Sciences, The Franklin Institute Science Museum, the Philadelphia Zoo, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and ten Community Based Organizations (CBOs).

Three members of CLUES exploring ouside in the woods.

  • Upcoming Events

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  • Community-Based Organizations

    Our diverse community partners include the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, LEAP Academy Charter School, the Indochinese American Council, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Norris Square Neighborhood Project, Folk Arts Cultural Treasures (FACTS) Charter School, Imani Education Circle Charter School, Falomi Club/Camp Fire USA, Youth Service, Inc., and Puerto Rican Unity for Progress, Inc. This project builds upon the previous work of Philadelphia-Camden Informal Science Education Collaborative (PISEC) and its Community Ambassadors for Science Exploration (CASE) program.

  • Goals

    The goals of the CLUES project include:

    • creating a new model for community-led science learning and environmental action for families
    • developing a training program to build educational leadership within the CBOs
    • empowering CBO-based educators to direct the focus and content of science programming
    • supporting ongoing collaboration among families, community-based education leaders, and museums


    To achieve these goals, museum professionals train qualified community members with the necessary skills to run science workshops and plan events through an intensive Apprentice program. The Apprentices, in turn, train part-time CBO-based Presenters to become workshop leaders. Apprentices and Presenters are involved in family programming, including workshops and family events at the museums, local outdoor activities and community workshops, and take home activities.

  • Museum Partners

    CLUES is the fifth project conducted by PISEC, 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. Learn more about the History of PISEC Projects.

    The Franklin Institute
    222 North 20th Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19103

    In the spirit of inquiry and discovery embodied by Benjamin Franklin, the mission of The Franklin Institute is to inspire an understanding of and passion for science and technology learning.

    The Philadelphia Zoo
    3400 West Girard Avenue
    Philadelphia, PA 19104-1196

    Advance discovery, understanding, and stewardship of the natural world through compelling exhibition and interpretation of living animals and plants.

    The Academy of Natural Sciences
    1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
    Philadelphia, PA 19103

    Founded in 1812, the Academy of Natural Sciences is America's oldest natural history museum, and a world leader in biodiversity and environmental research. For nearly 200 years, the Academy has carried out its mission to encourage and cultivate the sciences, exploring the remarkable diversity of our natural world and sharing these discoveries with the public through innovative exhibits, publications, and educational programming.

    The New Jersey Academy for Aquatic Sciences
    1 Riverside Drive
    Camden, NJ 08103

    The New Jersey Academy for Aquatic Sciences promotes the understanding, appreciation and protection of aquatic life and habitats through research, education and youth development programs.

  • History of PISEC Projects

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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 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: Lessons Learned from the Bridges Conference presents the results of a 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.

  • Sponsors

    CLUES is made possible with generous support from the National Science Foundation.

    NSF logo