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Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits
occurs in searching for core explanations of an event or phenomena. With guidance, this process can lead participants to reflect on their own state of knowledge and how it was acquired. Rich media representations (e.g., large screen documentaries) and digital technologies, such as simulations and immersive environments (e.g., visualizations, interactive virtual reality, games), can expand more traditional hands-on approaches to engage the public in authentic science activities.
Strand 5: Engaging in Scientific Practice
Because scientific practice is a complex endeavor and depends on openness to revision, it is done by groups of people operating in a social system with specific language apparatus, procedures, social practices, and data representations. Participation in the community of science requires knowledge of the language, tools, and core values. Changing the inaccurate stereotype of the lone scientist working in isolation in his laboratory to the accurate perception of groups of people interacting with each other to achieve greater understanding of a problem or phenomenon is critical to creating a positive attitude toward science learning. Strand 5 focuses on how learners in informal environments come to appreciate how scientists communicate in the context of their work as well as building learners’ own mastery of the language, tools, and norms of science as they participate in science-related inquiry.
Strand 6: Identifying with the Scientific Enterprise
Not only can educational activities develop the knowledge and practices of individuals and groups, they can also help people develop identities as science learners and, in some cases, as scientists—by helping them to identify and solidify their interests, commitments, and social networks, thereby providing access to scientific communities and careers. This strand pertains to how learners view themselves with respect to science. Strand 6 is relevant to the small number of people who, over the course of a lifetime, come to view themselves as scientists as well as the great majority of people who do not become scientists. For the latter group, it is an important goal that all members of society identify themselves as being comfortable with, knowledgeable about, or interested in science.
We note that in the strand framework in Taking Science to School (National Research Council, 2007), the development of identity was not a separate strand but was construed as a component of participation in science (Strand 5 here, Strand 4 in the previous volume). While we do not disagree that participation and identity development are closely related, we see identity as worthy of its own focus here with particular importance to informal settings, which engage learners of all ages. Identity is developed