“Promoting collaboration, partnership, and diversity in power and ownership may provide greater opportunities for nondominant groups to see their own ways of thinking and meaning-making—or making sense of what they are seeing and experiencing—reflected in informal settings.”
For example, the signs and labeling of an exhibition or the content of a program may be in English only, or a program for families may be designed to accommodate the one- or two-parent family structure typical of many middle-class, white families, rather than the multigenerational, extended family structures that may be prevalent among other groups.
To achieve equity, practitioners must consider ways to connect the home and community cultures of diverse groups to the culture of science. Angela Calabrese Barton, professor of science education at Michigan State University, argues for allowing connections between learners’ life worlds and science to be made more easily and “providing space for multiple voices to be heard and explored.”3
An important first step toward designing more inclusive and genuinely equitable learning experiences in science is for educators and designers to recognize that they may be acting under assumptions that reflect the dominant culture of middle-class whites. As a result, the programs, activities, and exhibits they design may have narrow appeal and lead people from nondominant cultures to perceive them as directed by and designed for the dominant group. Cecilia Garibay, principal of the Garibay Group, points to a number of indicators identified through research that can support this perception, including the lack of diverse staff, a feeling that the content is not culturally relevant, and the unavailability of bilingual or multilingual resources. In fact, recent research with various cultural groups suggests that these issues result in nondominant communities feeling unwelcome in museums.4
Approaching these problems with outreach efforts may inadvertently reinforce the image of informal settings as being part of the dominant culture. The term outreach itself implies that some communities may be external to the institution. Promoting collaboration, partnership, and diversity in power and ownership may provide greater opportunities for nondominant groups to see their own ways of thinking and meaning-making—or making sense of what they are seeing and experiencing—reflected in informal settings.