The National Science Foundation has provided significant funding for initiatives in informal science education to the Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium..

...in collaboration with the three other major science museums in the Greater Philadelphia region - the Franklin Institute, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and the Philadelphia Zoo. These four institutions joined in formal partnership as the Philadelphia/Camden Informal Science Education Collaborative (PISEC). NSF funded PISEC to conduct the Family Science Learning Project, a research and application project from July, 1994 through November, 1998. The project addressed three questions:

1) How can we identify and measure family learning?

2) Is there a connection between family learning and specific exhibit characteristics?

3) How can we change exhibits to enhance or promote family learning?


The Family Science Learning Project enhanced family learning at museum exhibits and generated the following publications:

Borun, M., Chambers, M., and Cleghorn, A. (1996). Families are learning in science museums.

Curator, 39 (2) 123-138.

- Borun, M.& Dritsas, J. (1997). Developing family-friendly exhibits. Curator, 40(3), 178-196

- Borun, M., Chambers, M., Dritsas, J., and Johnson, J. (1997). Enhancing family learning through exhibits. Curator, 40 (4), 279-295.

In the second PISEC initiative, the museums recognized that the ethnic and racial makeup of their visitor admissions did not yet reflect the demographics of the population in Philadelphia and Camden. A project called Community Connections was created to forge partnerships with eight community-based organizations in Philadelphia and Camden to promote museum-based learning for traditionally under-represented families, with The Pew Charitable Trusts as the major program sponsor.

Over three program years, more than 2,000 families participated in behind-the-scenes projects, family nights and other activities to establish a more intimate connection and involvement with the museums. Participating community-based organizations included: African Episcopal Church of St Thomas; Camden City School District ; Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center ; Ivy Leaf School ; Norris Square Neighborhood Project; Rutgers University Project LEAP; West Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; West Philadelphia Partnership; and Youth Service Inc.

Community Connections increased the participation of community families at the PISEC museums. A handbook was published to serve as a guide to museums nationally to encourage and demystify outreach efforts to underserved community families:

Wagner, K.F., Borun, M., Ferraro, J.M., and Johnson, J. (2000) WorkingTogether Museums and Community Partners. PISEC, Philadelphia. PA. Working Together is dedicated to the memory of Jean M. Ferraro, 1972-2000.

The “In Their Own Voices” publication presents interviews with people whose long-term involvement with the PISEC program has been life-changing. Most started as participants, with or without friends and family, and over time became PISEC leaders

To learn more about the other PISEC projects, click any of the links below: