participation in learning science (Jolly, Campbell, and Perlman, 2004). Tai and colleagues’ nationally representative study of factors associated with science career choices, in fact, suggests that an expressed interest in science during early adolescence is a strong predictor of science degree attainment (Tai, Liu, Maltese, and Fan, 2006). Even though early interest does not guarantee extended learning, early engagement can trigger the motivation to explore the broader educational landscape to pursue additional experiences that may persist throughout life. Youth-focused hobby or interest groups, designed exhibits, and after-school programs are commonly organized and planned to support this strand of science learning. They allow for the extended pursuit of learning agendas, the refinement of interests, the sharing of relevant learning resources and feedback, access to future learning experiences, and opportunities to be identified as having science-related interests.
Adults, including older adults, choose to learn science in informal environments often because of a personal interest, a specific need for science-related information, or to introduce children in their care to aspects of the scientific enterprise.
Strand 2 addresses learning about the main scientific theories and models that frame Western civilization’s understanding of the natural world. Associated educational activities address how people construct or understand the models and theories that scientists construct by generating, interpreting, and refining evidence. Concepts, explanations, arguments, models, and facts are the knowledge products of scientific inquiry that collectively aid in the description and explanation of natural systems when they are integrated and articulated into highly developed and well-established theories.
Asking and answering questions and evaluating evidence are central to doing science and to successfully navigating through life (e.g., looking at nutrition labels to decide which food items to purchase, understanding the impact of individual and collective decisions related to the environment, diagnosing and addressing personal health issues, testing different possible causes of malfunction in technological systems). The generation and explanation of evidence is at the core of scientific practice; scientists are constantly refining theories and constructing new models based on observations and experimental data. Understanding the connections, similarities, and differences between evidence evaluation in daily living and the practice of science is an important contribution that is easily introduced and delivered in informal everyday settings.
We also note that this strand is related to engineering design process,