Science Center to help develop AIDS programs aimed at children

The Maryland Science Center is one of eight science museums around the country that will share in a $1.5 million federal grant to develop traveling exhibits and outreach education programs on AIDS aimed primarily at youngsters, a museum official said yesterday.

The Science Center and seven other institutions will develop exhibits and programs that will focus on "making people aware of the basic science behind the [AIDS] disease," said Raylene Decatur, the museum's senior director of programs and operations. These will include how viruses affect the body and how the immune system works, she said.


The initial exhibit should be ready for viewing at the Science Center early next year.

A press conference is scheduled in Washington this morning to formally announce the grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control to the National AIDS Exhibit Consortium, a year-old organization of the eight museums. Among those expected to attend are former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who is advising the museums.


Ms. Decatur said the CDC was especially interested in having the consortium focus their efforts on children ages 10-14, who are just beginning to formulate decisions on sexual practices.

The museums could be particularly effective in educational efforts on AIDS and HIV because they collectively reach millions of visitors each year, most of whom are school-age children and families, she said.

Also, unlike pamphlets, the "participatory activities" of the museums "allow people to engage in a dialogue" about the subject, she said.

Some educational materials have already been developed by individual institutions, including an interactive computer program on the biology of AIDS.

The Science Center's contribution is expected to come mostly in developing outreach programs that can be used by schools and youth groups, Ms. Decatur said.

Besides the Science Center, other institutions involved in the consortium are the California Museum of Science and Industry, Los Angeles; the Exploratorium, San Francisco; the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia; the Museum of Science, Boston; the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago; the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Washington; and the New York (City) Hall of Science.