The Museum’s audience is one of the largest and most diverse of any museum in the country. Each year nearly four million people visit onsite, about half of them children. The online audience doubles the onsite attendance, with over four million unique visitors a year to the Museum’s online collections and databases, digital library, exhibition-related Web sites, interactive curricular materials for students and teachers, and other resources based on Museum science, research resources, and collections.
The Museum offers a wide array of educational programs targeted to various audiences—students from preschool through high school, families, educators, and the general public. These programs take place on-site and at schools and community sites throughout the City, as part of the Museum’s continuing efforts to extend its resources beyond its walls.
Approximately 500,000 children visit the Museum each year through school or camp group visits. These visits are facilitated by education staff or trained teaching volunteers and are enriched by the Teachers’ Guides and Student Field Journals sent to every group before their visit. Many visits are focused on special multi-cultural programming designed to reflect the City’s diversity. In addition, the Museum offers on-site after school, enrichment, and workforce development programs which allow students of a variety of ages and interests to participate in the Museum’s research and education mission.
Professional development programs, a response to the critical need for trained science teachers, are a key element of the Museum’s approach to improving science literacy. Educators learn to teach Earth and space science in the Museum’s accredited Master of Arts in Teaching, the first urban teacher residency program offered by a museum. The Seminars on Science offers a series of online professional development courses so that teachers from around the world can connect to educators, researchers and collections at AMNH without ever leaving home. Additional online teacher training courses are available thanks to the Museum’s partnership with Coursera, a leading Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) provider; these courses (currently, Evolution, Dynamic Earth, and Genetics and Society) are free and are open to teachers and non-teachers, alike. The Museum offers a wide range of customized programs for professionals at all levels and works with four CUNY campuses—Lehman, Hunter, Brooklyn and Queens Colleges—to develop courses and institutes for teachers-in-training. Use of the Museum as a teaching resource, exposure to Museum scientists, and techniques for inquiry-based science in the classroom are elements of all programs.
The American Museum of Natural History has a long tradition of using innovative permanent and temporary exhibits to bring the Museum’s scientific research program to the wider public. Consisting of more than 60 staff, including writers, artists, designers, preparators, and model makers, the AMNH Exhibition Department has been responsible for a series of groundbreaking shows, including The Secret World Inside You, Countdown to Zero, Life at the Limits, Darwin, Einstein, Lonesome George, and Picturing Science, and new galleries, such as the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins and the Millstein Hall of Ocean Life. In the Museum’s Hayden Planetarium, a team of Museum scientists and visualization experts, along with colleagues from such organizations as NASA, worked in a remarkable collaboration of science, artistry, and advanced computing to "stitch together" images of our universe, based on astronomical observations and computer models, to create a “virtual universe”; a hyper-realistic view of planets, star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies. One of the Hayden's newest exhibits is Dark Universe.