A vast majority of Rhode Island students fail to grasp “key scientific principles” deemed necessary in order to compete in the global economy (The Providence Journal, 2008). Rhode Island is not unusual, in that pre-college science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education “is a subject of increasing national concern” (National Research Council [NRC], 2008). Primarily the concern is one of continued national competitiveness, but “it also reflects concern that there is a lack of public understanding of science and scientific inquiry… [and] a democratic society needs all citizens to be scientifically literate in order to participate in national debate on scientific issues such as climate change and alternative fuels” (NRC, 2008).
How to address this? In a manner unique to Rhode Island – taking advantage of our strengths.
Rhode Island has a venerable tradition of art, science, and innovation. Home to the second oldest art club in the country, Rhode Island was also the birthplace of the industrial revolution in America. From these roots in original thinking, a variety of creative and nationally recognized organizations have sprung up; these include an extensive and vibrant arts scene, including, but certainly not limited to the RISD Museum of Art, FirstWorks and AS220, active research and development both in industry and university settings, and a high concentration of top tier institutions of higher learning in both the arts and sciences.
We have many excellent cultural centers. Our unique attractions not only serve Rhode Islanders, but they also draw thousands of visitors from neighboring states. The RISD Museum of Art draws over 115,000 visitors annually, while the Roger Williams Park Zoo attracts about 600,000. The award-winning, innovative, and technically challenging art installation – WaterFire – attracts, on average, 40,000 visitors each night, 60% of whom come from out of state.
Building upon the above models of art, science and innovation, the Rhode Island Museum of Science and Art (RIMOSA) will be a hands-on museum that will allow visitors of all ages to manipulate well-crafted educational exhibits, participate in and create take-home projects in line with our themes, and watch professional theatrical presentations related to our exhibits. RIMOSA will use these and other methods to appeal to different learning styles and emphasize the tools that both artists and scientists share; curiosity, observation, experimentation and communication.