topic piques their interest, then adults may seek out additional information online or even look into programs organized by local institutions, such as museums, libraries, universities, science centers, and labs.

The move into adulthood can be both liberating and constraining in terms of informal science learning. On one hand, young adults generally exercise considerable control over their choice of activities and lifestyles. On the other hand, choices that they make may place constraints on their ability to freely pursue their interests in scientific phenomena. Certain careers or occupations will emphasize the need to master some scientific domains more than others. Parental responsibilities can trim the amount of free time available to pursue scientific interests, and parents may feel obligated to devote some of their leisure time to activities for their children. Therefore, science learning may be driven as much by the needs and interests of their children as by their own preferences.

Characteristics of Adult Experiences

Adults frequently perceive informal institutions and programs as geared toward children. In fact, there are many opportunities available for adults. Bonnie Sachatello-Sawyer and her colleagues surveyed more than 100 institutions that offer science learning experiences nationwide to assess the number and type of adult programs available. These researchers interviewed staff and participants from informal institutions of different sizes and types (art institutes, natural and cultural history museums, science centers, botanic gardens) offering different kinds of programs (credited versus noncredited classes, guided tours, lectures). Both studies found that 94 percent of all institutions offer some sort of adult programming, but most of the programs—63 percent—were designed for families or children.21

This study also found that although most institutions are offering more adult programs than ever before, they are having trouble attracting and connecting with an audience. Part of the problem is with the kinds of programs offered. Lectures were offered more often than anything else, and they were viewed as dull from the adult learner’s perspective. The adult learners told researchers that they were interested in programs that gave them exposure to unique people, places, and objects. They had positive impressions of programs that gave them access to new perspectives, attitudes, and insights.

In addition, the study found that no single teaching or facilitation method was more effective than another. The quality that participants were looking for in an



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