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SURROUNDED BY SCIENCE

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SURROUNDED BY SCIENCE

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Learning Science in Informal Environments Marilyn Fenichel and Heidi A. Schweingruber Based on the National Research Council Report Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits Board on Science Education Center for Education Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this publication was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. This book is based on the National Research Council report Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits (2009). This project was supported by Grant No. ESI-0348841 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation with support from the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Fenichel, Marilyn. Surrounded by science : learning science in informal environments / Marilyn Fenichel and Heidi A. Schweingruber ; Board on Science Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. p. cm. “Based on the NRC report, Learning science in informal environments: people, places and pursuits.” Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-309-13674-7 (pbk.) — ISBN 978-0-309-13675-4 (pdf) 1. Science—Study and teaching—Case studies. 2. Active learning. 3. Experiential learning. I. Schweingruber, Heidi A. II. National Research Council (U.S.). Board on Science Education. III. Title. Q181.F3295 2010 507.1—dc22 2010003193 Additional copies of this publication are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu. Copyright 2010 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America Suggested citation: Fenichel, M., and Schweingruber, H.A. (2010). Surrounded by Science: Learning Science in Informal Environments. Board on Science Education, Center for Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

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BOARD ON SCIENCE EDUCATION HELEN R. QUINN (Chair), Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford University PHILIP BELL, Learning Sciences, College of Education, University of Washington, Seattle WILLIAM BONVILLIAN, Washington, DC, Office, Massachusetts Institute of Technology JOHN BRANSFORD, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Washington, Seattle ADAM GAMORAN, Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin–Madison JERRY P. GOLLUB, Department of Physics, Haverford College JANET HUSTLER, Partnership for Student Success in Science, Synopsys, Inc., Mountain View, California FRANK KEIL, Morse College, Yale University BRETT D. MOUDLING, Utah Office of Education, Salt Lake City CARLO PARRAVANO, Merck Institute for Science Education, Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, New Jersey SUSAN R. SINGER, Department of Biology, Carleton College CARL E. WIEMAN, Department of Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder WILLIAM B. WOOD, Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder MARTIN STORKSDIECK, Director (since June 2009) C. JEAN MOON, Director (until October 2007) HEIDI A. SCHWEINGRUBER, Deputy Director ANDREW W. SHOUSE, Senior Program Officer (until September 2008) MICHAEL A. FEDER, Senior Program Officer THOMAS KELLER, Senior Program Officer VICTORIA N. WARD, Senior Program Assistant (until May 2008) KELLY DUNCAN, Senior Program Assistant PATRICIA HARVEY, Senior Program Assistant (until June 2009) REBECCA KRONE, Senior Program Assistant

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Contents Preface xi PART i Frameworks for Thinking About Science Learning 1 Informal Environments for Learning Science 1 Venues for Learning Science 2 Illustrating the Common Characteristics of Informal Environments 5 everyday Science: WolfQuest: Playing to Learn 6 everyday Science: Science in Unexpected Places: Learning at a Science café 9 Reflecting on the Cases 12 A Systematic Approach to Learning 13 For Further Reading 17 Web Resources 18 2 Science and Science Learning 19 Science as a Social and Cultural Enterprise 19 everyday Science: Research in Your Backyard: Participating in the Practices of Science 22 What Is Science Learning? 25 Things to Try 32 For Further Reading 33 Web Resources 34 PART ii Designing experiences to Promote Science Learning 3 Design for Science Learning: Basic Principles 37 Insights from Research on Learning 38 Strategies for Putting Research into Practice 39 Learning from Interactive Experiences 41 everyday Science: Cell Lab: An Opportunity to interact with Scientific instruments 44 Challenges of Designing for Learning 48 everyday Science: Probing the Depths of The Mind at the exploratorium 50 everyday Science: Science Learning Among Kids of All Ages 53 Learning Through Media 56 everyday Science: How DragonflyTV Fosters Learning 57 Things to Try 60 For Further Reading 61 Web Resources 62 vii

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4 Learning with and from Others 63 Conversations and Language 66 everyday Science: Listening to conversations at the Frogs exhibition 69 Explanation: A Learning Tool Between Parents and Children 73 everyday Science: A conversation at the Museum 75 Roles That Support Learning 77 Things to Try 79 For Further Reading 80 Web Resources 80 5 Interest and Motivation: Steps Toward Building a Science Identity 81 The Role of Interest in Informal Environments 82 everyday Science: Building Exhibits Based on the Motivation Model 84 Cultivating and Sustaining Interest 87 everyday Science: An innovative Project with Urban Teens 89 Well-Developed Interest and Changes in Identity 93 everyday Science: An environmental Pioneer at Work 98 Things to Try 100 For Further Reading 101 Web Resources 101 6 Assessing Learning Outcomes 103 Challenges of Assessing Science Learning in Informal Settings 103 Developing Appropriate Assessments 105 Assessment and Evaluation 111 Things to Try 113 For Further Reading 115 Web Resources 115 PART iii Reaching Across communities, Time, and Space 7 Culture, Diversity, and Equity 119 Rethinking Equity 120 everyday Science: The Vietnamese Audience Development initiative 123 Designing Informal Science Experiences for People with Disabilities 128 everyday Science: culturally Relevant exhibits for People with Disabilities 130 Integrating Native American Culture with Science 132 everyday Science: Merging native culture and Language with Science 133 Things to Try 136 For Further Reading 137 Web Resources 137 viii

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8 Learning Through the Life Span 139 Children and Youth 140 everyday Science: Girls explore Yellowstone 144 Informal Science Learning Experiences for Adults 146 everyday Science: Road Watch in the Pass 150 Experiences for Older Adults 151 everyday Science: Project See Offers Science for Seniors 154 Cohort Effects 155 Things to Try 157 For Further Reading 159 Web Resources 159 9 Extending and Connecting Opportunities to Learn Science 161 Expanding Opportunities for Informal Science Learning 161 Linking Formal and Informal Settings 166 The Value of Field Trips 167 Taking Field Trips to the Next Level 170 everyday Science: The Mystery of the X-Fish 171 Another Model for Linking Schools and Informal Settings 174 everyday Science: The Lake Washington Watershed internship Program 175 Out-of-School-Time Programs: An Opportunity for Partnerships 176 everyday Science: The Monterey Bay national Marine Sanctuary and Pajaro Unified School District Working Together 178 Teacher Professional Development in Informal Settings 180 Learning Progressions and Preparation for Future Learning 182 Things to Try 184 For Further Reading 186 Web Resources 186 APPenDiX: Major Research Investments in the Connection of Formal and Informal Science Teaching and Learning 187 Notes 191 Acknowledgments 205 Photo Credits 207 Index 209 Biographical Sketches of Authors 219 ix Contents

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Preface As children, many of us remember going on a family outing to a zoo, an aquar- ium, a planetarium, or a natural history museum. Although sometimes we may have approached such excursions warily, thinking they might prove boring, even- tually there was something that caught our eye. Perhaps it was a chimpanzee star- ing back at us in a strangely familiar way or a shark taking a solitary swim in a custom-made tank. It could have been a moon rock brought back to Earth from one of the first manned space flights. When, at the end of the outing, parents asked, “Did you have fun?” in spite of ourselves we usually had to say yes. But then they wanted to know something else: “What did you learn?” That question was far harder to answer. Indeed, those working in science museums and other informal learning environments, including film and broadcast media; botanical gardens and nature centers; libraries; and youth, community, and out-of-school-time programs, increasingly are being called on to answer this question. Although people have participated in these activities for at least 200 years, only in the past few decades have practitioners and evaluators in the informal science community begun to study systematically what people learn, how they learn, and whether experiences in informal environments reinforce people’s identity as science learners. This work, still in its early stages, has proven to be challenging for several reasons. For one thing, ideas about learning have become increasingly sophisticated. It turns out that learning is far more than simply accumulating content knowl- edge. It is also a social process, informed and enhanced by collaboration and dis- cussion with other learners. In addition, “science learning” has its own particular characteristics. It encompasses the building of conceptual knowledge as well as mastering skills, such as observing, making predictions, designing experiments, and drawing conclusions based on data. What’s more, science learning has a cul- tural component. Science has its own language, tools, and practices. Part of the xi

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learning process for nonscientists is to become familiar with the culture of science and figure out how it meshes with their own cultural perspectives. Scientists constantly revise their understanding of how the world works based on emerging new evidence. For example, until recently, everyone considered Pluto to be a planet, but now the best minds in astronomy say otherwise. In the field of biology, there has been a shift in focus, moving from an emphasis on the structure and function of plants and animals to one on molecular and cell biology. Many compelling current issues are related to scientific knowledge, which provides the background needed to make decisions about problems and to take advantage of opportunities. For example, although science cannot tell people what to do about climate change, it can provide the data necessary to realize that carbon dioxide emitted into the air, often through human activities, is greatly affecting the climate. The way people interpret that information—and whether they accept it—is based on their cultural context, values, and vision for the future. The same holds true for acceptance of a new avenue of study, such as stem cell research. Science presents the opportunity to pursue it, but people’s beliefs and values dictate whether they follow through. One of the goals of informal science environments is to introduce learners to scientific skills and concepts, the culture of science, and the role science plays in decision making. While some of this can be learned in school, informal settings have an advantage in that they can reach people of all ages, with varying levels of interest and knowledge of science. What are effective ways to realize this goal? For example, what tools and strategies are needed to help practitioners in informal settings meet these challenges? What knowledge could help inform their practice? This book strives to answer these questions. One of its key premises is that an understanding of current research about how people learn in general—as well as the specific challenges of learning science—can improve the quality of infor- mal science offerings. For example, exhibits can become more interactive, which research says has the potential to provoke questions and elicit more thoughtful comments and conversations. Strategies used in commercially produced computer games can be put to use in “educational” games to generate excitement about science as well as to build players’ knowledge base. And out-of-school-time pro- grams, especially those for nondominant groups, can be designed with an under- standing of the participants’ culture. These findings and others brought together in this book come from the National Research Council (NRC) report, Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits. This report, written by a committee Surrounded by Science xii

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of 14 experts convened by NRC, includes the perspectives of developmental and cognitive psychologists, science educators, museum researchers and evaluators, social scientists, and professionals in the fields of youth and adult learning. This committee reviewed the most relevant peer-reviewed research, commissioned new papers on specialized topics, and held three public fact-finding meetings. Their report distilled what is known from research while also identifying what gaps remain in our knowledge about how to create effective informal science learning environments. Along the way, the committee realized that its findings would have tremen- dous value to a wide range of practitioners. Educators, museum professionals, policy makers, university faculty, youth leaders, media specialists, publishers, and broadcast journalists are among those who could put these new insights to good use. As a result, this book was created with several purposes in mind: to intro- duce newcomers to a growing body of research, to enhance the knowledge base of mid-level professionals, and to provide seasoned professionals with a source that gathers the body of research together in an accessible format. For all of these audi- ences, the goal is to present what the committee sees as the best thinking to date on how people learn in informal science environments. The book is divided into three parts. Part I, “Frameworks for Thinking About Science Learning,” lays the foundation for much of the research referred to throughout the book. The first chapter describes the range of informal envi- ronments for learning science, including everyday environments, designed envi- ronments, and programs, and then makes the point that these environments are developed by professionals who share common goals. These goals include a desire to engage participants in multiple ways, to provide opportunities for direct interaction with phenomena, and to acknowledge learners’ prior knowledge and interests. Chapter 2 builds on these ideas by focusing specifically on what it means to do and learn science. The chapter opens with a discussion of science as a human endeavor that involves specialized language, tools, and norms. It then introduces the strands of science learning, a framework that describes the range of knowledge, skills, interests, and practices involved in science learning. The strands framework is a tool that can be used to reflect on the broad range of competencies involved in learning science, to articulate learning goals, and to guide evaluation. The strands come up throughout the book in the descriptions of different types of informal environments and the type of learning that has occurred. Part II, “Designing Experiences to Promote Science Learning,” focuses on different aspects of the research on learning and how it can be put to work by xiii Preface

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practitioners, as well as assessment. Chapter 3 discusses specific strategies, such as the use of interactivity, that are effective in fostering the deeper, more flexible understanding of science that is exemplified by the strands. Chapter 4 highlights the social and cultural aspects of learning, exploring how individual learning is supported through interaction with more knowledgeable individuals and through the dynamic exchange of ideas. Chapter 5 discusses ways to enhance interest and motivation to learn and how a developed identity as a science learner is both a natural outcome of a highly motivated learner and a reason that people pursue varied informal learning experiences in science. Part II concludes with a chapter that explores the role of assessment in informal settings and the challenges inher- ent in this endeavor. Part III, “Reaching Across Communities, Time, and Space,” emphasizes other variables that affect learning. Chapter 7 presents a detailed discussion of what is meant by “equity” in the context of informal science settings and how these environments can be made more accessible to diverse populations. Chapter 8 discusses how to develop effective learning experiences for learners across the life span—for children and youth, senior citizens, and other adults. Chapter 9, the final chapter in the book, looks to the future of informal science learning, with a discussion on how to extend learning experiences across different media and set- tings. It also examines the relationship between formal and informal science envi- ronments and discusses the value to the learner of creating stronger links between these two settings. Throughout the book, case studies show how the principles and strategies emerging from research on learning can and are being employed by informal sci- ence educators across various settings. They also provide concrete examples to reflect on and critique, with the hope that they will generate new insights that will inform readers’ own work. For those who want to pursue the topics presented in each chapter in greater depth, a list of additional readings is included. Also, there is a list of “things to try” that provides suggestions for how to take ideas discussed in the chapter and begin to apply them. The “things to try,” however, are not detailed roadmaps for practice, but rather broad ideas that the reader may want to explore within his or her own institutional context. A major goal of the book is to show the many ways that informal environ- ments can support science learning and provide insight into how science can be made meaningful to people of all ages, backgrounds, and cultures—a value long Surrounded by Science xiv

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held dear in the informal science community. Columbia University physicist Brian Greene offers an eloquent explanation of this belief: Science is a way of life. Science is a perspective. Science is the process that takes us from confusion to understanding in a manner that’s precise, predic- tive, and reliable—a transformation, for those lucky enough to experience it, that is empowering and emotional. To be able to think through and grasp explanations—for everything from why the sky is blue to how life formed on Earth—not because they are declared dogma but because they reveal pat- terns confirmed by experiment and observation, is one of the most precious of human experiences. Through informal science learning, we can all experience this joy as our eyes are opened to the excitement and wonder that is science. Marilyn Fenichel Heidi A. Schweingruber xv Preface

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PART I Frameworks for Thinking About Science Learning

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