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Surrounded by Science: Learning Science in Informal Environments
STRATEGIES FOR SUPPORTING LEARNING
Juxtapose the learners’ understanding of a natural phenomenon with the formal disciplinary ideas that explain it. This often includes illustrating a surprising or typically hidden aspect of the phenomenon and prompting the learner to reflect on what it means.
Provide multiple ways for learners to engage with concepts, practices, and phenomena in a particular setting.
Allow the leaner to interact with the phenomenon. Sometimes interaction is simple, such as pressing buttons or turning knobs. Sometimes it is more extensive and might involve carrying out a scientific investigation.
LEARNING FROM INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCES
There is evidence that interactive experiences support learning across the six strands as well as reflect a concrete way to put the research about learning to work. Such experiences seem to spark interest and maintain learners’ engagement while also increasing knowledge and providing opportunities for reasoning. One such exhibit was designed to help visitors understand the form and function of the human skeleton. The exhibit consisted of a stationary bicycle that a visitor could ride next to a large reflecting pane of glass. When the visitor pedaled the bicycle, the exhibit was arranged so that an image of a moving skeleton appeared inside the pedaling person’s reflection. The movements of the legs and skeleton attracted the visitor’s attention to the role and structure of the lower part of the human skeleton.
According to museum researcher Jack Guichard, the skeleton exhibit experience seemed to transform children’s understanding of the skeleton, knowledge related to Strand 2, Understanding Scientific Content and Knowledge. After the cycling experience, children ages 6-7 were given an outline of the human body and asked to “draw the skeleton inside the silhouette.” Of the 93 children in the