determining ways to answer them is often the way that people of all ages learn new ideas. This process can take place in many settings, including the home, a community center, a museum, a lecture, or an informal event such as a Science Café.
The practice of science is a dynamic process, based on the continual evaluation of new evidence and the reassessment of old ideas. In this way, scientists are constantly modifying their view of the world. Learners in informal environments reflect on science as a way of knowing; on processes, concepts, and institutions of science; and on their own process of learning about phenomena. This strand also includes an appreciation of how the thinking of scientists and scientific communities changes over time as well as the learners’ sense of how his or her own thinking changes.
Research shows that, in general, people do not have a very good understanding of the nature of science and how scientific knowledge accumulates and advances.7 This limited understanding may be due, in part, to a lack of exposure to opportunities to learn about how scientific knowledge is constructed.8 It is also the case that simply carrying out scientific investigations does not automatically lead to an understanding of the nature of science. Instead, experiences must be designed to communicate this explicitly.
Informal learning environments and programming are well suited to providing opportunities for people to experience some of the excitement of participation in a process that is constantly open to revision. Developing an understanding of how scientific knowledge evolves can be conveyed in museums and by media through the creative reconstruction of the history of scientific ideas and the depiction of contemporary advances. Also compelling are the human stories behind great scientific discoveries. Such scientists as Galileo Galilei, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin, Marie Curie, James Watson and Francis Crick, and Barbara McClintock are just a few people whose stories provide examples of how scientific ideas evolve.
The nature of science can also be reflected in documentary-style entertainment shows. For example, the reality TV program MythBusters investigates assumptions about the nature of particular phenomena and the TV drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation depicts evidence as sometimes fragile and temporary in nature.