Connecting Science
to People's Lives

At the American Museum of Natural History, Maritza Macdonald wants people to experience science, not just learn about it

We’re not a ‘don’t touch’ museum.” Maritza Macdonald (Ed.D. '95), Senior Director of Education and Policy at New York City’s American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), gestures at a model of an island village threatened by rising tides. “Every student needs to develop concepts by holding things in their hands and questioning their origins and purposes within a cultural or scientific context.”

With its revamped planetarium and exhibits on poisons and exotic butter­flies, AMNH has long been more than a venerable repository of cool stuff. But it broke new ground with its 2011 launch of the nation’s first museum-based master’s degree program for K-12 science teachers. Macdonald supports the program by developing partnerships with higher education institutions — including TC, where students in the College’s new TR@TC2 residency program are able to take courses at AMNH and vice versa — evalu­ating the effectiveness of museum exhibits and representing AMNH on the National Commission for 21st Century STEM Education and the New York State Regents Work Group.

Raised in a small village in Colombia, Mac­donald wrote her TC dissertation on knowledge required for teaching in a culturally and economi­cally diverse urban classroom and has since been honored as an Equity Champion by the Academy for Education Development. She is co-author, with her former TC advisor, Linda Darling-Hammond, of Powerful Teacher Education: Lessons from Exemplary Programs (Jossey-Bass, 2006). Above all, she believes museums’ visual and tactile components are ideal for educating students from diverse backgrounds.

“Everyone comes from somewhere and knows their own ecosystem,” Macdonald told Life Scienc­es Education. “They can use that prior knowledge to learn about other ecosystems.” At the museum, she believes, “we can all connect science with ourselves.” — Kelsey Rogalewicz

(Published 6/10/2015)

Published Tuesday, Sep. 8, 2015

Connecting Science
to People's Lives

We’re not a ‘don’t touch’ museum.” Maritza Macdonald (Ed.D. '95), Senior Director of Education and Policy at New York City’s American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), gestures at a model of an island village threatened by rising tides. “Every student needs to develop concepts by holding things in their hands and questioning their origins and purposes within a cultural or scientific context.”

With its revamped planetarium and exhibits on poisons and exotic butter­flies, AMNH has long been more than a venerable repository of cool stuff. But it broke new ground with its 2011 launch of the nation’s first museum-based master’s degree program for K-12 science teachers. Macdonald supports the program by developing partnerships with higher education institutions — including TC, where students in the College’s new TR@TC2 residency program are able to take courses at AMNH and vice versa — evalu­ating the effectiveness of museum exhibits and representing AMNH on the National Commission for 21st Century STEM Education and the New York State Regents Work Group.

Raised in a small village in Colombia, Mac­donald wrote her TC dissertation on knowledge required for teaching in a culturally and economi­cally diverse urban classroom and has since been honored as an Equity Champion by the Academy for Education Development. She is co-author, with her former TC advisor, Linda Darling-Hammond, of Powerful Teacher Education: Lessons from Exemplary Programs (Jossey-Bass, 2006). Above all, she believes museums’ visual and tactile components are ideal for educating students from diverse backgrounds.

“Everyone comes from somewhere and knows their own ecosystem,” Macdonald told Life Scienc­es Education. “They can use that prior knowledge to learn about other ecosystems.” At the museum, she believes, “we can all connect science with ourselves.” — Kelsey Rogalewicz

(Published 6/10/2015)

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