Art Center Gets Grant to Bring Science Education to the Movies

The Salina Art Center is one of 36 independent cinemas, museums, and community groups across the country with film programs to get funding to bring science education to the big screen.

According to the art center, the Coolidge Corner Theatre and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation named the 2017−18 recipients of their nationwide Science on Screen® grant program this week, awarding grants totaling $255,000. Each organization will receive up to $8,500 to create and present three or more Science on Screen events, which pair expert-led discussions of scientific topics with screenings of feature and documentary films.

Science on Screen features classic, cult, science fiction, and nonfiction films provocatively matched with lively presentations by experts who discuss specific scientific, technological, or medical issues raised by each film. Last season, for example, the Salina Art Center Cinema screened Soylent Green and At the Fork as part of a program on global food security and the challenges of maintaining a sustainable food supply in the face of climate change, with a discussion led by Tim Crews, director of research and lead scientist at the Land Institute. Previous presentations included Future Weather (2012), followed by Verna Fitzsimmons, CEO and Dean, Kansas State University Polytechnic, and Martha Tasker, Director of Utilities, City of Salina, leading a discussion on women working in the sciences. In March 2017, Twister (1996) was followed by Brad Ketcham, Lead Forecaster for the National Weather Service, Wichita and Ron Fent, director/producer of That Seventies Storm: Chasing Tornadoes Through Time, discussing changes in forecasting technologies and methods over the past twenty years including storm chaser culture.

The new season of Science on Screen at the Art Center Cinema is still being finalized. However, on Thursday, March 27, 2018 the Art Center will participate in National Science on Screen day with a special presentation of Jaws (1975) followed by special guest speaker Mike Everhart author of “Oceans of Kansas – A Natural History of the Western Interior Sea” and Adjunct Curator of Paleontology at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University, leading discussion of sharks in Kansas through consideration of fossils from the late Cretaceous Western Interior Sea.

The purpose of the program is to inspire in audience members an increased appreciation for STEM topics-science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Though STEM-related occupations are becoming an increasingly large (and well-paid) portion of the U.S. labor force, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the United States lags behind many other developed nations in scientific literacy. According to the Nation’s Report Card, released by the U.S. Department of Education, only 22 percent of American high school seniors performed at or above the level of proficiency in a 2015 test of science literacy. And results from the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which tested the scientific literacy of 15-year-olds around the world, ranked the U.S. 24th out of 71 countries, behind Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Germany, and many others.


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