Things to Try

To apply the ideas presented in this chapter to informal settings, consider the following:

  • Is there an informal way to “listen in” to the kinds of conversations people are having in your setting? If so, pay attention to what they focus on. Are they revealing how social interaction enhances learning or how parents and other caregivers can mediate an experience for children?

  • Have you noticed that one type of exhibit or experience seems to elicit more conversation than others? If so, is there a way to incorporate those features into other exhibits?

  • A graphic representation from Frog and Toad Are Friends elicited a strong response from exhibit visitors. Are there ways to include artifacts from popular culture in your setting that would be recognizable to large numbers of people and could stimulate personally meaningful conversation?

  • Are there tools in place to help parents and other caregivers mediate the experience for their children? Are the objects clearly labeled, with easy-to-read explanations? Are there guides for caregivers to help them deepen the experience of their children? Does the layout of the experience make it easy for adults to discuss the exhibit’s ideas with their children? Is it possible to have staff people available to help parents engage in conversation with their children?

  • Are experiences in your setting designed to be explored together? In programs, is interaction with other people an integral part of the experience? In exhibits, is there enough room for groups to explore? If an exhibit is designed for one user or visitor, can others observe and engage in other ways, such as through conversations? In programs, is cooperation and collaboration made part of the experience itself? Does the experience encourage group reflection, conversation, joint problem solving, and other forms of social interaction and cooperation? Are these experiences designed to elicit learning about the others in a group and thereby allow for strengthening interpersonal relationships?

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