by joining clubs, reading books, or participating in other activities on the topic. When an individual reaches this phase, he or she is highly motivated to look for more ways to learn about the subject. Interestingly, this sequence of increasing investment and meaningfulness has parallels with work done by Beverly Serrell and her colleagues in generating criteria for exhibition excellence based on principles from the visitor studies literature.14
The notion that interest can be deepened and sustained through repeated experiences is important to think about when designing informal learning experiences for science. Some settings or activities may not lend themselves to cultivating sustained interest as much as others do. Short visits to museums or lectures may trigger excitement about a topic, but these experiences do not offer enough exposure for well-developed individual interest to emerge. In order for this level of interest to develop, longer-term engagement and multiple experiences are likely to be necessary and those may be easier to integrate into some settings than others. After-school programs or citizen-science experiences that last for weeks or months may promote sustained engagement more readily. Strategies for extending and connecting learning experiences across time and place are discussed in detail in Chapter 9.
To illustrate how sustained interest can evolve over time, consider the next case study, which describes a community garden project that was sponsored by York College of the City University of New York. Over a period of 9 months, urban African American and Latino teens and their mentors worked together to build a community garden. About 40 teens were involved in at least one aspect of the project, and a core group of 15 (12 boys and 3 girls) was responsible for implementing the project from start to finish. Their efforts illustrate a deepening of interest over the life of the project and the outcomes that are possible when people become truly engaged.