over the life span and so incorporates the dimension of time. We urge the community of informal science education to support identity development over time by creating opportunities for sustained participation and engagement over the life span.


We are interested in a broad array of settings that can capture lifelong, life-wide, and life-deep learning. We organize our discussion of environments across three venues or configurations for learning: everyday informal environments, designed environments, and out-of-school and adult programs.

All learning environments, including school and nonschool settings, can be said to fall on a continuum of educational design or structure (see Figure 2-3). Although what makes a learning environment informal is the subject of much debate, informal environments are generally defined as including learner choice, low consequence assessment, and structures that build on the learners’ motivations, culture, and competence. Furthermore, it is generally accepted that informal environments provide a safe, nonthreatening, open-ended environment for engaging with science. In this report we limit our analysis to nonschool informal environments out of a felt need to promote careful analysis and research in this area, which has often taken a back seat to research in school settings.

Everyday and Family Learning

Everyday learning is pervasive in people’s lives and includes a range of experiences that may extend over a lifetime, such as family or peer discussions and activities, personal hobbies, and mass media engagement and technology use. The agenda and manner of interaction in the environment are largely selected, organized, and coordinated by the learners and thus vary across and within cultures. Assessment is most often structured as immediate feedback through situated responses. Doing, learning, knowing, and demonstrating knowledge are typically intertwined and not easily distinguished

FIGURE 2-3 Continuum of learning environments.

FIGURE 2-3 Continuum of learning environments.

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