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Surrounded by Science: Learning Science in Informal Environments
ROLES THAT SUPPORT LEARNING
Just as informal settings for learning vary tremendously, so do the practices in which facilitators, educators, and parents engage to support it. Even in everyday settings, facilitators can enhance learning. For example, a child’s cause-seeking “why” questions are an expression of an everyday, intense curiosity about the world. Parents, older peers, facilitators, and teachers can and often do support these natural expressions of curiosity and sense-making, as revealed through studies about television watching discussed earlier. Evidence indicates that the more support parents and others offer, the greater the possibility that children will learn. Though too much guidance may limit learning. Recognizing expressions of curiosity and sense-making supports and encourages learning and reinforces learners’ efforts (e.g., by listening to learners, helping them inquire into and answer their own questions, and involving them in regular activities that place them in contact with natural and designed phenomena and scientific concepts).
Roles that support learning can range from simple, discrete acts of assistance to long-term, sustained relationships, collaborations, and apprenticeships. Just by interacting with children in everyday routine activities (e.g., preparing dinner, gardening, watching television, making health decisions) parents, caretakers, and educators are often helping them learn about science. In addition, family and social group activities often involve learning and the application of science as part of daily routines. Agricultural communities regularly analyze environmental conditions and botanical issues. Even facilitators who are not experts in science (e.g., in after-school and community-based programs) can serve as intermediaries to informal science learning experiences. In some instances, the enthusiasm and assistance of a facilitating Girl Scout leader can encourage members of the troop to pursue a science badge.
“Roles that support learning can range from simple, discrete acts of assistance to long-term, sustained relationships, collaborations, and apprenticeships.”