The Center opens Jan. 14, 2014 in the first-floor gallery and is a partnership between the museum and UT Arlington's College of Education and Health Professions. It will be guided by the University's Southwest Center for Mind, Brain and Education and will be the only such center in the southwest and one of five in the United States.
"This collaboration fulfills our mission to educate students, encourage learning, support faculty research and engage the community," said Jeanne Gerlach, dean of the College of Education and Health Professions. "What usually unfolds in a university setting will now take place in a public setting with museum-goers as the potential subjects. Out of that interaction we hope to see unpredicted but great ideas."
Museum President Van A. Romans said he envisions a unique process of discovery for the new Center that the community, researchers and the museum will find attractive.
"We are thrilled to be collaborating with UT Arlington's College of Education and Health Professions and its Southwest Center for Mind, Brain and Education," Romans said. "Our institutions share a vision of developing an educational research program, of collaborating with other area researchers, and of giving guests the opportunities to have first-hand experiences with the processes of science."
The Research and Learning Center will invite museum visitors to participate in short research interactions lasting no more than 15 minutes. The work will take place in a 1,200 square foot area that contains movable furnishings.
"Museum-goers will get an opportunity to experience the same thing that they would in a laboratory with a scientist carrying out his research," said Marc Schwartz, director of the Southwest Center for Mind, Brain and Education. "The tools may simply be a hammer and building blocks or they could include something more elaborate, but the interactions are the bases for actual research needed for the scientist to complete his study."
The Research and Learning Center is modeled after Boston's Living Laboratory, whose partners include the Boston Museum of Science with Boston College, Boston University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University.
Steffen Palko, a Fort Worth businessman, philanthropist, museum board member and supporter of the Southwest Center for Mind, Brain and Education, provided start-up funding for the Research and Learning Center.
As chair of the museum's Innovation Committee, he set out in 2009 to help the museum better foster creativity and innovativeness. He also wanted to help the museum forge stronger partnerships with area schools and universities.
"While the Dallas-Fort Worth region has several science museums and universities, it has always been a challenge to bridge the gap between scientists and the general public." Palko said. "We hope that this experience will strengthen support for researchers, strengthen science literacy and transform lives through extraordinary learning experiences."
Provided by University of Texas at Arlington
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