Adult: I know, it’s kind of slippery.
Child: They’re hard to hang on to.
Adult: Yea, they’re hard to hang on to. But it’s like touching a live, well it is touching a live creature that ordinarily isn’t used to being touched, like a cat or dog.
Child: That’s a pretty, that’s a beautiful frog.1
Reactions like these, showing curiosity, discovery, and personal responses to an informal science experience, are what museum designers are striving for. These responses reflect Strand 1, and they are essential to the learning process.
In this chapter we explore how interaction with other people plays a role in learning. There are converging reasons to look at learning from and with others as a foundational part of the whole process of science learning. First, individual learning is supported through interaction with more knowledgeable others and through a dynamic exchange of ideas and reflection. Second, as highlighted in Strand 5, science itself involves specialized norms for interacting and specialized forms of language. Learning science therefore involves learning those norms and language. Third, people very often participate in informal science learning experiences with other people. Therefore, the experiences should be designed with groups in mind and in a way that capitalizes on opportunities to engage with other people.
Parents, adult caregivers, peers, educators, facilitators, and mentors play critical roles in supporting science learning. There is ample evidence that children and adults reason about issues that are important to them while interacting with other people. Studies of dinner table conversations, visits to the zoo, and other everyday activities have uncovered rich conversations on a myriad of scientific topics and using scientific forms of discourse.2 Families of all backgrounds engage in everyday conversations about a broad range of topics, including physics, biology, politics, and religion.3 Through these kinds of interactions, children engage with others in questioning, explaining, making predictions, and evaluating evidence.4 Thus, in a