Since its permanent opening in April 1997, ASG has proven to be an exceptional venue for informal science education—a place where visitors immerse themselves in objects, activities and installations and engage in self-directed learning about science as it is happening at the National Zoo and other parts of the Smithsonian.
ASG is a real working science facility where visitors experience what happens in nutrition, genetics, behavior, and scanning electron microscopy laboratories by exploring labs, offices, and work areas that are open all day every day.
Visitors to ASG actually share space with scientists at work and can talk with them about work in progress and what it’s like to do this kind of work. This experience is enhanced by materials, such as art, libraries, and scientists’ personal things, which are always available to visitors.
But ASG is more than an exciting science showcase—it is also a teaching laboratory and training ground for science educators. ASG staff develop and produce an ever-changing palette of interpretive programs, materials and installations with the researchers’ collaboration and visitors’ input.
Because ASG staff are immersed in both the visitors’ and scientists’ worlds, they have developed a model of informal education that links these two sometimes disparate groups under one theme—a common interest in science.
ASG staff are also deeply involved in developing linkages between informal and formal education programs and to encouraging family involvement in science education.
ASG is also a venue for training scientists to be more effective communicators and better advocates for science and for promoting biological science education and career development in underserved audiences, such as North American Latino communities.