Carnegie Museum of Natural History

For more information, contact:
Kathleen Bodenlos
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
412.622.3361 (office)

December 22, 2015


$399,000 Spencer Foundation grant expands collaboration between Carnegie Museum of Natural History and University of Pittsburgh
The 21st Century Naturalist: A collaboration for informal science education

Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments (UPCLOSE) received a grant for $399,000 from the Spencer Foundation. The grant will expand their joint work of bringing museum resources to the public in informal learning environments and develop new nature-based learning opportunities.

“This grant plays quite nicely into our overarching goal of partnering with the university, community, and schools to further the museums ongoing conservation programs,” said Eric Dorfman, Director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. “From the museum’s perspective, we embrace our role as catalyst for the greater community around a shared passion of nature and science.”

The three-year project will build a roadmap for research and practice based on the notion of the 21st Century Naturalist. The 21st century Naturalist, as defined in this study, focuses on stewardship and reaches beyond studying life on Earth to include working towards its sustainability.

“Natural history collections have been underutilized in such important work as climate change and biodiversity loss,” said Steve Tonsor, Director of Science and Research at the museum. “A key role of the museum in the 21st century will be to not only study life on Earth, but to ensure its sustainability. We share a desire to discover more about the role of informal learning institutions in broader regional learning ecologies.”

The work will begin with an analysis of the museum’s own programing and existing partnerships. Various stakeholders will be interviewed including teachers in the Pittsburgh region, science education thought leaders and 50 diverse youth. The study will explore their perspectives on nature studies and learning opportunities in the region.

Building on the analysis, a network of partners including stakeholders from schools, museums, and community organizations will develop experiences that resonate with the 21st Century Naturalist and that can be connected to learning pathways for youth. The goal will be to revise existing programs in collaborative ways that connect formal and informal learning experiences for children and families.

The Spencer Foundation was established in 1962 by Lyle M. Spencer. The Foundation is committed, by Spencer’s direction, to support high-quality investigation of education through its research programs and strengthening and renewing the educational research community through its fellowship and training programs and related activities.

University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments (UPCLOSE) is dedicated to understanding and supporting learning in informal settings. Its work ranges from basic learning research, to research/practice partnerships, to field-building and professional development for the informal learning world. UPCLOSE is a project of Pitt’s Learning Research and Development Center and School of Education.


Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is among the top six natural history museums in the country. It maintains, preserves, and interprets an extraordinary collection of 22 million objects and scientific specimens used to broaden understanding of evolution, conservation, and biodiversity. Carnegie Museum of Natural History generates new scientific knowledge, advances science literacy, and inspires visitors of all ages to become passionate about science, nature, and world cultures. More information is available by calling 412.622.3131 or by visiting the website,