Citizen Efforts Lead to Learning

This case study illustrates the pragmatic nature of adult involvement in science. Participation in this program was spurred by concern about the dangers to people and wildlife as a result of traffic on Highway 3. It follows that the people with the most at stake would be more apt to participate. In addition, the impact of the program on animal safety is contingent, at least in part, on participant investment in the effort.

There is evidence that learning has occurred. The number of observations in the database—4,500—indicates that people are interested in the program and motivated to participate (Strand 1). According to the results of a 2007 Road Watch online survey, 85 percent of the respondents (43 individuals) indicated that their knowledge of wildlife-vehicle collision and movement zone patterns had increased. In addition, through participation in the program, people gained much experience recording their observations (Strand 3) and using scientific tools (Strand 5).

On the basis of preliminary analysis of evaluation data, it is difficult to say whether a community of learners has formed. People do, however, discuss the program with their friends, although attendance at scheduled Road Watch meetings and events is erratic, ranging from low to high without a consistent pattern.

The online survey also asked whether respondents learned anything else besides information about wildlife. Participants indicated that they understood the potential of their data to affect future land-use decisions to improve safety conditions for both wildlife and people.23

EXPERIENCES FOR OLDER ADULTS

Older adults are a population with whom informal institutions are working more frequently. Their abilities, needs, and interests require special attention in order to create programs that serve them well. Long-standing misconceptions about aging, especially about the likelihood of such problems as memory loss and cognitive decline, have affected the way programming for this audience has proceeded. To improve this process, researcher Ann Benbow has compiled a list of strategies that should be considered when planning programs for older adults.24 These include explaining the activity clearly, setting aside enough time to complete it, and relating the activity to real-life situations.



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