tories, and practices that are evident in learner and scientific communities. Accordingly, two notions of the culture of science underlie the committee’s conclusions and the recommendations that follow.

In one sense, there is a culture of science in that science involves specialized practices for exploring questions through evidence (e.g., the use of statistical tests, mathematical modeling, instrumentation) which people must acquire if they wish to enter the formal domains of science. This first sense of the culture of science also includes social practices such as peer review, publication, and debate. In a second sense, science reflects the cultural values of those who engage in it—in terms of choices about what is worthy of attention, differing perspectives on how to approach various problems, and so on. From this latter perspective, as is the case with any cultural endeavor, differences in norms and practices within and across fields reflect not only the varying subject matters of interest but also the identities and values of the participants. The recognition that science is a cultured enterprise implies that there is no cultureless or neutral perspective on science, nor on learning science—any more than a photograph or painting can be without perspective. Thus, diversity of perspectives is beneficial both to science and to the understanding of learning. It also stands as a potential resource for the design of informal environments for science learning.

This chapter presents the committee’s conclusions and recommendations for research and practice. We begin with conclusions drawn from the research reviewed by the committee, beginning with evidence about learners and learning, and then move on to informal learning settings and how to broaden participation in science learning. Finally, we outline our recommendations for practice and research that flow from our conclusions.


Conclusion 1: Across the life span, from infancy to late adulthood, individuals learn about the natural world and develop important skills for science learning.

As the committee discussed in Chapter 4, a vast literature documents young children’s learning about the natural world. Even infants observe regularities in the world and build tacit understandings that help them reliably anticipate physical phenomena and create order in their experience. Very young children learn a great deal about the natural world in the first few years. They notice changes in the world around them (flowers blooming, the moon changing shape, snow melting, airplanes flying overhead), they learn the names of objects and processes, and they engage in learning conversations with other people about these events. Children extend these early experiences by engaging with science-related media, asking spontaneous questions of adults and peers, making predictions, evaluating evidence,

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