Paul M. Helfrich

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Science Learning Network

The Science Learning Network (SLN) is an online community of educators, students, K-8 schools, science museums and other institutions demonstrating a new model for inquiry-based science education.

The SLN began as a three-year, $6.5 million project funded by the National Science Foundation and Unisys. Dr. Helfrich served as co-principal investigator, project manager, and corporate liaison to lead the effort to win the largest NSF grant in Franklin Institute history. This innovative project incorporated inquiry-based teaching approaches, online museum resource creation, collaborative inquiry among geographically dispersed teachers and classrooms, and the implementation of telecomputing infrastructure into partner museums and K-8 schools.

The original partners in the “testbed” Phase 1:

  • The Franklin Institute (Philadelphia) — Levering School
  • Exploritorium (San Francisco) — Ross Elementary School
  • Miami Museum of Science (Miami) — Avocado Elementary School
  • Museum of Science (Boston) — Hosmer School
  • Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (Portland) — Buckman School
  • Science Museum of Minnesota (St. Paul) — Museum Magnet School

Each museum installed high-speed T-1 lines and created a set of inquiry-based online resources available to everyone on the Internet. This process was detailed in Dr. Helfrich’s article Building Onramps to the Information Superhighway:  Designing, Implementing, and Using Local Museum Infrastructure, Internet Society Conference, June 1995.

The Franklin Institute partnered with the Levering School, part of the Philadelphia School
District. This video shows the basic steps required to introduce “inquiry learning in the
Internet style” to a K-8 school.

International members added in Phase 2:

  • Heureka, the Finnish Science Center (Helsinki)
  • Science Museum (London)
  • newMetropolis Science & Technology Center (Amsterdam)
  • Science Museum, Japan Science Foundation (Tokyo)
  • Singapore Science Center (Singapore)
  • Exploradome (Paris)

What’s New?

I am currently teaching Grade 5 at the Westside Waldorf School in Pacific Palisades, CA for the 2016-2017 academic year.

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