SpectrUM Awarded $671K for Hands-On STEM Education Across Montana

A family explores a making-and-tinkering activity at spectrUM Discovery Area.

MISSOULA – The University of Montana spectrUM Discovery Area has received a $671,000 National Leadership Grant for Museums from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

During the three-year project, the science education center will develop a mobile making-and-tinkering exhibition, as well as an education program that will travel to rural and tribal Montana communities to engage K-12 students and educators with hands-on problem solving and design.

One of 12 projects selected from a pool of 61 proposals nationwide, the project is titled “Making Across Montana” and addresses a critical need within the museum field for replicable, sustainable approaches to serving rural and tribal communities – particularly in large, sparsely populated states like Montana.

“We’re thankful that spectrUM’s leadership was honored for co-designing innovative, hands-on STEM experiences with Montana communities,” said spectrUM Director Jessie Herbert-Meny. “This award will allow us to develop a replicable model for rural and tribal engagement that will benefit museums and K-12 educators far beyond our state.”

SpectrUM will collaborate with community partners in the Bitterroot Valley and on the Flathead Reservation to co-design the exhibition, which will include exhibits and activities that encourage creativity, collaboration and resilience.

As the exhibition travels to additional rural and tribal Montana communities – including Browning, Anaconda and Frenchtown – spectrUM will offer professional development trainings and leave behind supplies and activity guides designed to help schools build internal capacity to lead making-and-tinkering experiences year-round.

In Missoula, the exhibition will rotate to spectrUM’s soon-to-open location at the new Missoula Public Library and at EmPower Place at the Missoula Food Bank and Community Center.

The project builds on approaches developed through spectrUM’s making and tinkering and teacher professional development initiatives on the Flathead Reservation and in the Bitterroot. These efforts have been funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, Cognizant, the Martin Family Foundation and the Jane S. Heman Foundation.

In 2019, the international Association of Science and Technology Centers honored spectrUM with a Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Award for its innovative, inclusive approach to developing visitor experiences.

Inspiring a culture of learning and discovery for all since 2006, spectrUM has brought exhibits and educators to 73 schools and public libraries in 32 Montana counties, including all seven American Indian reservations. SpectrUM is part of UM’s Broader Impacts Group, which works to engage K-12 students and the general public with UM research and scholarship.

IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. It advances, supports and empowers America’s museums, libraries and related organizations through grantmaking, research and policy development. Its vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities.

For more information, call spectrUM’s Director Jessie Herbert-Meny at 406-243-4828 or visit http://www.spectrum.umt.edu.


Contact: Jessie Herbert-Meny, spectrUM Discovery Area director, 406-243-4828, jessie.herbert@umontana.edu.