already view some museum collections online, and podcasts and webinars make events held at different settings accessible to a wide range of learners.
The relationship between formal and informal environments is of particular interest; in fact, research indicates that each setting has much to offer the other, but determining strategies that are applicable to multiple environments is still underway. Based on the research, however, informal science institutions have a role to play as destinations for field trips, settings for out-of-school-time programs, and places where professional development activities are held.
To apply the ideas presented in this chapter to informal settings, consider the following:
If you are interested in embarking on a formal–informal collaboration, consider asking the following questions:
Is there a shared vision? Do all stakeholders know what they want to get out of the collaboration? Have reasonable goals been established to help all involved realize their vision?
Is the informal setting committed to working closely with the schools to develop a program that works for everyone?
Conversely, are the schools committed to working closely with informal settings? Does each of the partners know about other partners’ assets and constraints?
Have clear and consistent lines of communication been established? Have informal settings considered the best ways to talk with schools? For example, is e-mail better than phone calls? Are more frequent, brief exchanges better than less frequent, more involved encounters? Are there mechanisms in place to inform parents about the nature of the relationship and progress being made? Has there been a staff person assigned to monitor the relationship and be accountable for successes and failures?
Are teachers being sufficiently supported by the informal setting? Are strategies in place to build trust and establish a strong relationship in which teachers and staff from the informal setting are learning from each other?