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2 Introduction to Informal Learning “Most people, most of the time, learn most of what they know outside the classroom.” —George Tressel (quoted by David Ucko) and research underlying the reports, the ways in which the When most people think of learning about science, a field of informal education is starting to use the reports, and classroom or laboratory setting comes to mind, students the relevance of informal education to chemistry. being taught by teachers according to a set curriculum and following a textbook. They picture a formal educational environment. However, children and adults actually learn Lifelong, Life-Wide, Life-Deep Learning about science continuously, through a variety of ways and Ellenbogen explained that one premise of the report is that settings such as visiting museums, watching television, or learning is lifelong, life wide, and life deep, encompassing exploring outdoors, by what is called informal education. In formal and informal education.3 Figure 2-2 illustrates this this opening session of the workshop, three speakers offered point, showing the significant percentage of time in a per- introductory remarks about informal education and effective son’s life that is spent in informal versus formal education. communication of scientific content. Kirsten Ellenbogen The blue area, referred to as the “sea of blue” throughout this from the Science Museum of Minnesota provided an over- workshop, represents the time spent in informal educational view of informal education, David Ucko of the National environments; the black area represents the time spent in Science Foundation talked about the connection between formal education. chemistry and informal education, and filmmaker Stephen Ellenbogen said that one exciting conclusion of the LSIE Lyons discussed the changing role of video and films in report was that many opportunities exist to fill the unused communicating chemistry. In addition, the speakers specifi- educational time and provide an interconnected network of cally addressed the challenges and opportunities for com- informal learning environments. “There is abundant evidence municating chemistry content to public audiences in informal of learning in everyday environments. . . . That includes set- learning environments. tings like museums, experiences like watching a television show.” SURROUNDED BY SCIENCE Kirsten Ellenbogen started the morning off by immers- Strands of Learning ing the group in the volume from the National Research Ellenbogen explained how the LSIE report emphasizes Council (NRC) Learning Science in Informal Environments six strands of learning (Box 2-1). She emphasized that the (LSIE)1 and its companion volume Surrounded by Science concept of calling the aspects of science learning “strands” (Figure 2-1).2 Ellenbogen discussed the main conclusions is not unique to this report; it has been used in some other NRC reports. The strand concept reinforces the idea that 1Philip Bell, Bruce Lewenstein, Andrew W. Shouse, and Michael A. Feder, Editors, Committee on Learning Science in Informal Environments, 3The National Research Council. 2009. Learning Science in Informal Environ- LIFE Center (The Learning in Informal and Formal Environments ments. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Center), University of Washington, Stanford University, and SRI Interna- 2Marilyn Fenichel and Heidi A. Schweingruber, National Research tional. 2007. Learning in and out of school in diverse environments: Life- Council. 2010. Surrounded by Science. Washington, DC: National Acad- long, life-wide, life-deep. Available online at http://depts.washington.edu/ emies Press. centerme/LEARNING%20LIFE%20REPORT.pdf. 4
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5 INTRODUCTION TO INFORMAL LEARNING FIGURE 2-1 Cover images of recent National Research Council reports on informal education. SOURCE: Philip Bell, Bruce Lewenstein, Andrew W. Shouse, and Michael A. Feder, Editors, Committee on Learning Science in Informal Environments, National Research Council. 2009. Learning Science in Informal Environments. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; Marilyn Fenichel and Heidi A. Schweingruber, National Research Council. 2010. Surrounded by Science. Washington, DC: National Acad- emies Press. FIGURE 2-2 Map of human learning, which shows that people spend the majority of their time from infancy to adulthood in informal learning settings. SOURCE: The LIFE Center (The Learning in Informal and Formal Environments Center), University of Washington, Stanford University, and SRI International. 2007. Learning in and out of school in diverse environments: Life-long, life-wide, life-deep. Available online at depts. washington.edu/centerme/LEARNING%20LIFE%20REPORT.pdf.
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6 CHEMISTRY IN PRIMETIME AND ONLINE BOX 2-1 Strands of Science Learning Learners in Informal Environments Strand 1: Experience excitement, interest, and motivation to learn about phenomena in the natural and physical world. Strand 2: Come to generate, understand, remember, and use concepts, explanations, arguments, models, and facts related to science. Strand 3: Manipulate, test, explore, predict, question, observe, and make sense of the natural and physical world. Strand 4: Reflect on science as a way of knowing; on processes, concepts, and institutions of science; and on their own process of learning about phenomena. Strand 5: Participate in scientific activities and learning practices with others, using scientific language and tools. Strand 6: Think about themselves as science learners and develop an identity as someone who knows about, uses, and sometimes contributes to science. these aspects of learning are not individual elements that One issue in particular she mentioned is a lack of lon- stand alone in informal education experiences. “These are gitudinal studies on informal learning—“of following a literally strands or threads that are interwoven throughout learner through school experiences and home experiences many of the experiences. . . . In many instances, it is almost and museum experiences and looking at those over time, impossible to separate out one part of the experience from and the connections between conversations in the home and another part of the experience, to identify which moment in how they related to conversations back in the museum.” It is the learning experience relates to which aspect of the learn- still difficult to obtain the larger longitudinal view needed to ing strand.” Learning is not just about content; it is also about connect an informal educational experience with the impact the processes of science. it may have on how an individual uses science or pursues a Another point made by Ellenbogen is that strands 2 career in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics through 5 are also in the volume Taking Science to School, (STEM). which focuses on K-8 learning in school environments. “This In addition, she said, “we know very little about the was an important part of the LSIE report that was able to cumulative effects. People talk about informal learning show good evidence that there is a strong overlap between experiences being these very particular moments in time what happens in our formal learning environments and what [ to which] we as complex humans can attach various happens in informal learning experiences,” she said. experiences throughout our life, drawing back many times The difference between the two reports is the inclusion of on information or experiences from decades ago in a very strand 1, excitement and motivation, and strand 6, identity meaningful way. David Anderson at the University of British development, as part of informal education. “It is not to say Columbia in Vancouver has some great examples of this and that [strands 1 and 6] don’t happen in school environments, interviews that he has done with people about their World’s but they are such a critical and strong part of what happens Fair experience, decades and decades after they went to the in informal learning experiences, we pulled them out into World’s Fair.” their own strands.” Ellenbogen concluded by mentioning that there are a Ellenbogen showed many examples of informal learning number of commissioned papers available, in addition to the from her museum. She emphasized that she only provided a LSIE and Surrounded by Science reports, from the National few examples, and there are thousands of research publica- Academies Board on Science Education.4 tions and evaluation reports referenced in the LSIE volume. At the same time, she noted that one of the interesting things to come out of the study is there is still a great deal unknown, despite the rich body of research and evaluation in informal science education, She said there is a lot to be learned about effectiveness of different media formats and how they lead 4For more information, see www7.nationalacademies.org/bose/BOSE_ to good decision making in people’s everyday life. Resources.html (accessed December 27, 2010).
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7 INTRODUCTION TO INFORMAL LEARNING Questions & Answers Ellenbogen spoke of Robert Tai, at the University of Virginia, who has explored the topic of scientists and their Reflective Experiences formative experiences. She recommended that participants see Tai’s paper titled “Eyeballs in the Fridge”5 in which Tai A workshop participant asked if there is a way to design discusses very distinct gender differences in what adults in an “ah-ha” moment into the learning environment for chil- STEM careers point to as a formative moment of “here is dren or adults: “For many of us as professional scientists, what I did as a teenager or youth that pushed me or encour- this is the moment that we treasure, when something finally aged me to get into this as a career.” The experiences for girls clicks and you integrate a lot of observations.” in particular were more about a moment in time that had a Ellenbogen said that such moments are connected to the particularly affective element to them. reflective needs of the learning experience. She said there is not much evidence in the literature of reflective experiences Zero to Five being integrated consistently into the design of learning environments. However, museums are now incorporating A question was asked about the type of learning that hap- them into exhibits. pens during zero to 5 years old (just a white spot on Figure For example, the Science Museum of Minnesota is devel- 2-2). Ellenbogen explained that there is “a significant gap in oping “tinkering spaces” or engineering labs “that give learn- the science that we know about the development of children ers real questions to grapple with, issues that we don’t exactly at those ages, and what we do as a society to support learners have clear answers on.” Ellenbogen said the exhibit is set up . . . 90 percent of brain development occurs in those years as a reflective experience that has focused rings of partici- from birth to 5.” At the same time, “if you look at the way pation. “On the outer ring it asks some very basic questions we support citizens in our society, there is almost no sup- and engages you in some exploration of phenomena, but as port, or a negligible amount of support for educating zero to you move in and go into an area that has to be facilitated by 5-year-olds in a way that works with what we know about staff, there are actual fabrication tools that allow you to try brain development in those years.” According to Ellenbogen, to design and build something that responds to the question formal schooling for kindergarten and up is typically made or issue at hand.” smaller or cuter or simpler for those under 5. Brain develop- Ellenbogen stated that different media sources are also ment research indicates this is not how to develop a good trying to introduce this type of experience, such as in televi- learning experience for a zero to 5-year-old. Ellenbogen sion or radio segments where they ask questions designed to suggested reading the “Everyday Science” chapter of the cause a reflective conversation among the social group who LSIE report for more information on education needs of zero may be watching the video or listening to that radio show. to 5-year-olds. “It is something that is really underutilized in an informal Jeannette Brown commented about early experiences in learning experience.” science. She mentioned that the Chemical Heritage Founda- tion is collecting video oral histories of women in science, Science Identity and Brown is also collecting oral histories of African-Amer- ican women in science. Another resource for oral histories Bill Carroll asked how children come to identify with of African-American scientists is the Science Makers, 6 being a scientist. He mentioned how some kids seem to look available on the History Makers website7 (based in Chicago). at science and say, “I just don’t think I can do that.” Ellenbogen mentioned the LSIE report has evidence and Lifelong, Life-Wide, and Life-Deep Learning commentary on this in a variety of chapters. “If you want to look at the lifetime of the learner, it starts in the conversations Ellenbogen was asked to clarify the distinction between and research on adult-child interactions in homes, in family lifelong, life-wide, and life-deep learning and how each units, and the notion that very early on, conversations posi- needs to be built into effective informal learning projects. She tion science as something we do or something that we like.” responded that lifelong learning is the most straightforward There have been some insights from interviews with concept; “from birth to death, you are a learner, and you go well-known scientists about early formative experiences. through experiences every day that shape the person you are For example, many scientists recall being collectors in child- and the way you live your life and the kind of decisions you hood. However, collecting rocks or other items can be messy, and it takes a lot of time, which is something that is encour- 5 A.V. Maltese, and R. H. Tai. 2010. Eyeballs in the fridge: Sources aged in some homes but not in others. At the same time, of early interest in science. International Journal of Science Education there is little evidence of exactly how those early formative 32(5):669-685. experiences link to a STEM career or developing an identity 6See www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/category_details.asp?sp=1 as someone who does science. She said that this is an area &category=scienceMakers. for gathering better longitudinal data. 7 See www.thehistorymakers.com/.
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8 CHEMISTRY IN PRIMETIME AND ONLINE make. The life-wide says you have to jump into that sea of them understand the ways to make decisions about science blue and look at what the informal learning experiences are, in their everyday life. so what is the width of experiences in addition to the length of it. . . . Life-deep learning is something that is emphasized Role Modeling to help people look more in depth at the kind of world view, the kind of values that shape what people believe. It is a very A participant asked whether there is research on the underresearched area of learning.” importance of role models in learning, such as young college The participant then asked, “How do you keep those three women or teenagers leading Girl Scout events, which seem ideas in mind when you design something, a learning experi- to be very effective in engaging the younger children. ence for the museum?” Ellenbogen said the Girl Scouts have good research on Ellenbogen explained that museums sometimes do “front- this—some is cited in the LSIE report. “The interesting thing end studies” to find out what the experiences and views of is that the modeling happens throughout the lifetime. . . . It museum visitors are. She stated that “you will see in the is one of the most interesting areas that need to be studied Learning Science and Informal Environments text that pre- across lifelong and life-wide learning. You have so many dif- vious experiences are one of the most influential aspects of ferent kinds of people in your life who model science experi- what people do and experience when they are in any sort ences. You have everything from the kinds of influences you of designed environment. You can design all you want, and see modeled in television or other sorts of media environ- everyone walks in with a lot of baggage and things that shape ments or in books. You also have modeling that happens in the way they see and interpret and experience anything you the adult-child relationships. There is a significant amount have designed. The same thing goes for when you look at of peer modeling that goes on.” Ellenbogen mentioned that how multiple people view the same media program.” Dirk vom Lehn at King’s College, London, “has some really As an example, Ellenbogen discussed how the Science great studies of looking at the modeling impact of strangers in designed learning environments.”9 Museum of Minnesota duplicated a study called the “Six Americas”8 that looked at national views on climate change. The Six Americas study found that there is a wide range INFORMAL CHEMISTRY of knowledge and beliefs about climate change, ranging David Ucko provided some background on the National from enthusiastically supporting and accepting the science of climate change to disbelief and rejection. In the middle Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Research and Learn- there is “a disaffected category of, I just don’t care about ing (DRL), which focuses on improving learning and teach- this science stuff.” ing across all ages and all settings, and funds research and The museum found that few visitors who took the sur- development (R&D) grants at about $250 million a year. vey were in the disaffected category, which was lower than DRL has four programs, including one focused on informal the national average in the Six Americas study. It was an science education, and is the primary program within the expected result though since museums typically attract the Directorate of Education and Human Resources at NSF that science attentive. However, the museum was surprised to funds furthering public understanding of science and enhanc- find that about 26 percent of visitors surveyed said they do ing public science literacy. not believe in or accept the science of climate change, which Ucko reiterated the point made by Kirsten Ellenbogen— was about the same as the national average. that formal education is critical, “but it only takes up a Research on environmental education shows that values small portion of one’s life.” He provided a quote from one affect a museum visitor’s ability to look at the scientific of his predecessors at NSF, George Tressel: “Most people, information presented. The Science Museum of Minnesota most of the time, learn most of what they know outside the is looking at how to shift from influencing to informing. classroom.” Ellenbogen said many informal learning environments are Informal learning goes by many other names. Some specifically designed to influence someone’s views or ideas people call it free-choice learning, experiential learning, about science. The Science Museum of Minnesota is grap- or recreational learning. Ucko described informal learning pling with the issue of how to inform people with the kind of as a pull phenomenon, as opposed to a push phenomenon, science experiences and knowledge that they need and help because it is driven by the interests of the learner, at a par- ticular time. “It is a voluntary activity,” he said. Ucko illustrated the appeal of informal learning with a quote from Frank Oppenheimer, the creator of the Explorato- rium: “No one ever flunks a museum or a television program 8A. Leiserowitz, E. Maibach, C. Roser-Renoug, and N. Smith. 2010. Global Warming’s Six Americas. Yale University and George Mason Uni- versity. New Haven, CT: Yale Project on Climate Change. Available online 9For more information, see www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/sspp/mgmt/people/ at environment.yale.edu/climate/files/SixAmericasJune2010.pdf (accessed November 5, 2010). academic/vomlehn/ (accessed November 5, 2010).
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9 INTRODUCTION TO INFORMAL LEARNING FIGURE 2-3 Informal STEM landscape. SOURCE: J.H. Falk, S. Randol, and L.D. Dierking. 2008. The Informal Science Education Landscape: A Preliminary Investigation. Washington, D.C.: Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education. Available online at caise.insci.org/uploads/docs/2008_CAISE_Landscape_Study_ Report.pdf (accessed April 6, 2011). or a library or a park.” Ucko spoke of the growth of the field to improve the field of informal science education. Ucko of informal education, which began in the 1970s when the discussed some of these approaches to informal education Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) was within the context of chemistry in further detail. created. ASTC was founded by 16 members in 1971, and today there are 583 member organizations in 45 countries Modes of Informal Education and Chemistry around the world. Ucko started in this field about 30 years ago at the Ucko talked in detail about different types of exhibits as a Museum of Science and Industry, after teaching at Antioch mode of informal education. These include permanent exhib- College. His first professional conference, an ASTC confer- its that stay at a science museum, typically for 5 to 10 years, ence, had about 50 people in it. Today those conferences now and then are renewed and replaced; traveling exhibits that have about 1,500 people, giving another sense of the growth stay at a museum for about 3 months and then are shipped of the field in the last 30 years. to another museum for another 3 months; and mobile exhib- its that travel the country in vans, buses, or other vehicles. Ucko noted that chemistry is not highly represented in most Landscape of Informal Education exhibits. However, he was able to provide several examples Ucko discussed the landscape of informal education, of NSF-funded exhibits. One example, “Chemistry of Life,” illustrated by John Falk and others in Figure 2-3. It shows was an exhibit at the New York Hall of Science, which still exists and is now called Marvelous Molecules.10 many of the communities and organizations that exist within informal learning, across two dimensions: one promoting Ucko developed an exhibit at the Museum of Science and STEM understanding and the other practicing informal Industry in Chicago in the mid-1980s, in collaboration with education. Some groups do more of one than the other, and Bassam Shakhashiri and Rodney Shriner at the University of Wisconsin,11 that was based on basic principles of chemistry some sit right at the intersection where education is high in both informal learning and STEM understanding. This appears on the diagram in the corner at the left on the bottom and consists of science museums, natural history museums, 1 0See w ww.nyhallsci.org/marvelousmolecules/index.html ( accessed zoos, and aquariums. Over the years, NSF has funded all September 13, 2010). 11For more recent activities, see Shakhashiri’s “Science is Fun” website, of these organizations and communities to varying degrees www.scifun.org/ (accessed April 6, 2011).
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10 CHEMISTRY IN PRIMETIME AND ONLINE when applied to everyday life. One example of the many their research grants to create public learning activities. One interactive experiments at the exhibit is the electrolysis of example from an NSF Chemistry Division (CHE) funded water, which “never failed to startle visitors across the hall research grant involved a hands-on activity based on flavo- of the museum when the hydrogen that was formed ignited noid plant pigments. He also mentioned that within CHE, with spark and created a lot of noise.” broader impacts are required as a review criterion, so many One of the challenges Ucko spoke of in trying to pres- of the research grants have some kind of public activity ent chemistry in an exhibit is conceptual. “It is hard to get associated with them as well. people to go from the macro, from what they can see visibly, In addition to these kinds of publicly oriented activities, to the micro.” Ucko thinks there are also perception issues; NSF has also tried to advance the field directly through pro- chemistry and the word “chemical” are often equated with fessional development in a variety of ways, such as research toxicity.12 There are also turf issues: “Things like forensics and working on infrastructure and capacity building. may be of interest to people, but they may not associate it with chemistry. Same with biochemistry; it might be more Project Evaluation linked with biology than with chemistry—and certainly with nanotechnology there is a similar kind of thing going NSF evaluations of the programs it funds are a critical on today.” There are also many technical aspects to creating part of the process. Ucko referenced Kirsten Ellenbogen’s chemistry in these environments. “You need to prepare, you talk about front-end evaluation. This evaluation is done at the need to get rid of waste, you need to have storage and dis- beginning of a project because of the need to understand who posal and maintain things. You have got safety and liability the audience is, what its members are interested in, what they issues, cost and training for the people that are involved in know already, and how to engage them in a particular subject. doing this.” He said that while developing a project—when it is still Although informal education is becoming increasingly relatively easy to make changes in the project design—it is Internet based, he said that TV, radio, and giant-screen films important to do formative evaluation, which involves pilot are still important means for reaching people. Two examples testing, creating prototypes, et cetera. After pilot testing, of chemistry film projects that NSF has funded recently (both there is remedial evaluation, which looks at how all of are discussed in detail by Steve Lyons later in this chapter) the components of an exhibition work together as a whole are: and helps identify issues in the project that may need to be altered. NSF requires a summative evaluation, which deter- 1. “Lives in Science,” in 1999, a grant to WBGH Boston mines whether the project has achieved the impact originally for the NOVA program on Percy Julian, and intended. These summations must be posted to a website 2. The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements, in called Informalscience.org, which currently has about 200 2009. examples of summative evaluations for NSF-funded projects. To help people learn more about these summative evalua- Ucko said that grants for learning technologies (e.g., tions, NSF funded a workshop and published a report called games) and digital and online media are the fastest-growing The Framework for Evaluating Impacts of Informal Science Evaluation.13 NSF created categories to characterize the piece of the NSF funding portfolio. “We now see aspects of what we call cyber learning in almost every project that we impacts of informal education projects, including aware- fund.” Other areas of informal learning include youth and ness, knowledge and understanding, engagement, attitude, community programs, which allow time for more intensive and behavior skills. personalized learning, unlike an exhibit or digital media set- Ucko also highlighted key aspects of the LSIE report and ting. After-school programs are probably the most common, its importance to the education community, as listed below: but there are also many other targeted kinds of programs. Also mentioned by Ucko is citizen science, or public 1. Broaden the definition of learning. Typically learning participation in science, where the public is involved in is defined as what happens at school. By adding items 1 and making observations, collecting data, and even designing 6 (see Box 2-1) to the strands of learning, it “extended the experiments in the real world. This idea started with public definition of learning beyond the cognitive, to talk about participation in bird observations at the Cornell Laboratory interest and motivation and to talk about identity formation.” of Ornithology in the 1990s. 2. Provide a foundation for future research. The LSIE NSF funds Communicating Research to Public Audiences report is a synthesis of what has been done in research and awards through the Informal Science Education Program. evaluation across informal learning, drawn from many sub- This program allows principal investigators to use part of disciplines. By making this work known and by making rec- 12In this report, chemistry is defined as the science of composition, struc - 13 For more information, see c aise.insci.org/uploads/docs/Eval_ ture, and properties of substances (chemicals) and the changes they undergo. Framework.pdf (accessed November 10, 2010).
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11 INTRODUCTION TO INFORMAL LEARNING ommendations, it provides a foundation for future research audience’s values, knowledge, and attitude when one tries to and expansion of the data. engage the public. 3. Provide a guide for practitioners. It is a way for them 2. Create learning experiences that are engaging. Studies to take what has been learned about the research in informal from Robert Tai and others show that many scientists knew learning and apply it to their everyday work. they wanted to be scientists by ages 12 to 14, so it is impor- tant to engage children early. However, Ucko cautioned that Ucko described the Nanoscale Informal Science Educa- it is important that these efforts be done in ways that are not tion (NISE) Network.14 Now in its fifth year, it is the largest overly promotion oriented. project that NSF has funded in recent years and is a $20 3. Build on the research and practice. Ucko encouraged million 5-year effort. It is led by the Museum of Science in participants to build on the NRC LSIE report and to think Boston, and includes the Science Museum of Minnesota, about the lifelong learning ecology and the web of experi- the Exploratorium in San Francisco, and many others. NISE ences that span settings and time. He believes creating a brings together science museums around the country with network of people interested in informal learning about nanoscience and technology researchers, to develop exhibit chemistry would help leverage the existing infrastructure and elements, programs, public forums, and a variety of products resources. designed to increase public awareness and understanding of 4. Research and evaluate efforts. Ucko believes that nanoscience and technology. Everything is being developed continuing research and evaluation of projects related to as open source materials, so they can be shared freely and informal learning are the only ways to add to the knowledge to avoid duplication. base and continue support for informal education. Another NSF effort to fund informal learning is the Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education, CAISE.15 Questions and Answers It is designed to serve the field overall and to help create a community of practitioners across those different dimensions Chemistry in Museums of informal learning discussed earlier in the landscape study. Ucko believes that these activities are helping the field of A participant noted that in addition to the list of museum informal science education to reach greater recognition of chemistry exhibits that Ucko mentioned having, the Museum its impact and public engagement, for example: of Natural History has one called Science in American Life that is sponsored by the American Chemical Society. The • Nature had an editorial recently called “Learning in exhibit also has a room of hands-on activities geared toward the Wild” about the impact of informal science education. young kids. • Professional organizations such as the National Sci- Mark Cardillo mentioned that the Dreyfus Foundation has ence Teachers Association have an informal science day as a seed program that supports museum exhibits in chemistry. a part of their activities every year. He noted that many of the exhibits mentioned by Ucko and • Private foundations such as the Noyce Foundation are others were initiated with a seed grant. increasingly funding informal learning. • There was recently a House subcommittee hearing on NISE Network Beyond the Classroom: Informal STEM Education. • NSF recently held an Informal Science Education sum- Participant Dr. Rosenberg asked Ucko about the effective- mit that brought together 450 people from across the field. ness of the NISE Network in incorporating chemistry. Ucko believes it has been effective and has grown substan- Ucko provided a few suggestions for how chemists tially. For example, almost 200 science museums around the can take advantage of informal education resources and country have an event each year called Nano Days. The NISE opportunities: Network creates effective kinds of learning experiences by bringing museums together and linking them to researchers 1. Start with the learner, not with the contact. Start with and could be a useful model for other organizations. Ellenbogen noted that there would be a report17 available what is going to engage the learner; or the “hook.” He high- lighted the work of Matt Nisbet at American University,16 September 30, 2010, that summarizes the chemistry experi- who has written about framing, which takes into account the ences in NISE programs and exhibits. 14For more information, see www.nisenet.org (accessed September 13, 2010). 15For more information, see caise.insci.org (accessed November 10, 2010). 16For more information, see www.american.edu/soc/faculty/nisbet.cfm 17For more information, see the NISE Network Research and Evaluation (accessed September 13, 2010). website at www.nisenet.org/catalog/eval (accessed November 11, 2010).
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12 CHEMISTRY IN PRIMETIME AND ONLINE FIGURE 2-4 Dreyfus Foundation-funded energy exhibit at the Museum of Science, Boston. SOURCE: 2010. Printed with permission, MJ Morse, Museum of Science, Boston. NSF Broader Impacts or by surveying the intended audience before planning an activity. Another participant commented that NSF broader impacts Mark Cardillo mentioned two new Dreyfus-funded chem- grants seem like a good opportunity for collaboration among istry exhibits, one at the Science Museum in Boston (Figure chemists and informal science educators, because the recipi- 2-4)18 and one at the Museum of Science and Industry in ents of these grants are chemical researchers, who “don’t Chicago.19 The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago really know that much about how to reach out to the public. in particular has developed a new and exciting multimillion- Yet there is this whole population of people who do just that, dollar Science Hall. and they are not connected to each other.” Ucko said NSF encourages chemistry principal investiga- CHEMISTRY, THE NEGLECTED SCIENCE tors (PIs) to collaborate with people from the informal sci - ence education communities in advance. Unfortunately, he Stephen Lyons explained that his interest in science com- has heard that PIs will often ask for a letter of support from munication stems from producing the program Forgotten a museum or education expert the day before the proposal is Genius (mentioned earlier by David Ucko), a 2-hour biog- due to NSF, which does not lead to effective collaboration. raphy of the African-American chemist Percy Julian (Figure 2-5), which aired on the PBS NOVA program 3 years ago.20 Opportunities for Chemistry in Informal Education He explained that “Julian’s scientific career involved a lot of Ellenbogen asked Ucko to speak about the compelling areas of chemistry that might benefit from or be well suited 18The exhibit is called “Fuel Your Future.” For more information, see the to informal science education. Ucko warned against starting Museum of Science Boston website at www.mos.org/ (accessed November 11, 2010). from chemistry and suggested instead planning an informal 19The exhibit is called “Create a Chemical Reaction.” It is part of the education activity based on real-world topics that typically larger, recently opened Science Storms exhibit. See www.msichicago.org/ interest people, such as environment, food, or health, and whats-here/exhibits/science-storms/the-exhibit/atoms/create-a-chemical- then address the chemical aspect. The topics can be identified reaction/ (accessed September 13, 2010). 20For more information, see the PBS Forgotten Genius website at www. from front-end testing (as mentioned earlier by Ellenbogen) pbs.org/wgbh/nova/julian/ (accessed September 10, 2010).
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13 INTRODUCTION TO INFORMAL LEARNING pretty amazing chemistry, including his landmark synthesis of a glaucoma drug called physostigmine, and his pioneering work trying to make cortisone and other steroids available to people at reasonable prices. On the strength of this work, Julian was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He was the first black chemist elected to the Academies.” Lyons described how he came away from the project with two lessons about communicating chemistry topics. “Lesson number one was that chemistry can make interesting televi- sion.” As he began to look deeper into Julian’s work, he was fascinated by the chemist’s ability to manipulate tiny bits of matter, to work with atoms that he could not see or touch, but was then able to rearrange them to make molecules that could improve peoples’ lives. Lyons described this as “almost magical,” and a very interesting topic for a televi- sion documentary. The second lesson was that chemistry was not being covered on television. “I looked around and I discovered that I essentially had the whole field to myself; no other television producers were interested in making television on chemistry.” FIGURE 2-6 Marie Curie is one of the personalities to be featured in the Lyons-Moreno film The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements. SOURCE: U.S. National Library of Medicine, History of Medicine Division. Chemistry Can Make Interesting Television Lyons has found two things that make chemistry inter- esting to people: making the program about people, and showing why it matters. This was relatively easy in the case of Forgotten Genius, because Julian’s life story was so compelling: he had a lifelong battle against racism, worked hard to become a chemist, and used chemistry to help people. Lyons applied what he learned from Forgotten Genius to his new video production titled The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements. This is a 2-hour special focusing on the human story behind the development of the Periodic Table (Figure 2-6).21 Many people are familiar with the Periodic Table, because it hangs in almost every chemistry class in the world. How- ever, there is an incredible story that very few people know behind the rows and columns of elements. There was a long quest to discover the elements and to define and explain the FIGURE 2-5 Chemist Percy Julian, winner of the Spingarn Medal hidden order among them. Lyons described this quest as in 1947. SOURCE: Percy L. Julian, Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. 21For more information, see informalscience.org/project/show/1892.
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14 CHEMISTRY IN PRIMETIME AND ONLINE Chemistry, the Neglected Science one of the great adventures in the history of science, filled with fascinating characters. For example, there was Dmitri Lyons elaborated on the second lesson he drew from the Mendeleev, a Russian chemistry professor whose struggle Julian project: little chemistry is highlighted on television. to organize a textbook led him to devise the Periodic Table By reviewing the previous 12 years of NOVA programs, he in 1869; Joseph Priestley, who discovered oxygen; Marie found that the most popular category was “history mystery.” Curie, a Polish graduate student who launched the science of In this category, the producer uses science to explore a his- radioactivity and used it as a tool for finding new elements; torical mystery, such as the Kennedy assassination. However, Harry Moseley, a young Englishman who used the new tool only one film out of the 190 broadcasts focused specifically of X rays to redefine the very nature of elements, only to on chemistry, which is lower than all other areas of science. die at age 27 in World War I; and Glenn Seaborg, whose He noted, however, that the data he collected are a few discovery of plutonium played a key role in ending World years old, so they do not reflect the most recent programs War II and who went on to pioneer the creation of elements in the NOVA schedule. For example, there have been a few beyond uranium in the Periodic Table. short pieces about chemistry on NOVA’s summertime maga- In producing Search for the Elements, the production team zine program, Science Now, but no full-length films since plans to use many of the same techniques as in the Julian Forgotten Genius. Also, he did not take into account bits of film. Actors play the key characters, delivering lines drawn chemistry in many other films, such as those on molecular from the scientists’ own writings, historians, biographers, biology, global warming, and forensics. Some people might chemists, and writers who helped tell the story, and there will also quarrel with his categorizations, such as two science be dramatic reenactments of key discoveries with period lab programs near the bottom of his list on artificial diamonds equipment. However, instead of focusing on one scientist as and the samurai sword, which he categorized as material sci- was done in the Julian film, Search for the Elements will be ence. Both concern the structure of matter. However, “if you an ensemble drama about the collective effort to understand put them in the chemistry column, chemistry jumps right up the nature of matter, about a series of individual discoveries over math and botany.” that gradually built a foundation of knowledge. Lyons reviewed the programs through NOVA’s 36-year The program will also show how modern scientists con- history and only found 6 programs out of a total of approxi- tinue to build on that foundation, conducting new chemical mately 690 that were clearly and primarily about chemistry: research that may affect peoples’ lives in profound ways. For example, the film will highlight the work of Massachusetts • Forgotten Genius (2007) Institute of Technology (MIT) chemist Daniel Nocera. For • Race to Catch a Buckyball (1995) years, Nocera has been searching for an element that could • Hidden Power of Plants (1987) serve as a catalyst to speed up the splitting of water into • Plague on Our Children (1979) oxygen and hydrogen, which could then be used as a clean- • A Pill for the People (1977) burning fuel. Even though the Periodic Table was invented • Linus Pauling: Crusading Scientist (1977) more than a century ago by Mendeleev, it has led to modern chemical research that may one day help the world’s energy However, he said NOVA is not alone. If other programs, problems. Thus, the film relates chemistry to renewable for example, on the Discovery Channel could be searched, energy, a topic that resonates with many people. “I’m sure we would find the same pattern there. In fact, Lyons noted that his production team received a critical there is even less chemistry on other networks than there is NSF planning grant to help this project last year and has on PBS.” also received support from the Dreyfus Foundation, the Haas Similar results were found when he reviewed other popu- Trusts, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation. At the time of lar media, such as books, newspapers, and magazines. There the workshop, NSF was considering his proposal for produc- are recent popular books on chemistry, such as Oliver Sacks’ tion funds. The funding has since been received, and Lyons Uncle Tungsten,22 Philip Ball’s H2O,23 and John Emsley’s hopes to produce the film in time for broadcast on PBS late Molecules of Murder.24 Lyons noted that compared to many in 2011 during the International Year of Chemistry. other sciences, these writers and books are rare. In addition to the television program, the project will Lyons cautioned that his investigation was not a system- include an extensive outreach program involving the St. atic survey of how chemistry is covered by the media. He Louis Science Center and its Yes Teens program. The Ameri- can Chemical Society has pledged to make Search for the Elements the focus of National Chemistry Week, and a spe- 22 O.W. Sacks. 2001. Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood. cial teacher’s edition DVD of the program will be produced New York: Alfred A. Knopf. with many extra features to help teachers use the human 23P. Ball. 1999 H O: A Biography of Water. London: Weidenfeld & 2 stories behind chemistry to educate their students. Nicolson Ltd. 24J. Emsley. 2008. Molecules of Murder: Criminal Molecules and Classic Cases. London: Royal Society of Chemistry.
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15 INTRODUCTION TO INFORMAL LEARNING wanted to get a quick sense of chemistry’s media profile 50% by looking at limited samples of a few key representatives Television 45% I nternet of the various media. Lyons believes it would be useful if Magazines 40% somebody could do a more thorough study than this. “Still, Newspapers Radio 35% the pattern seems clear. Given the huge number of chemists Other 30% in the world, the amount of science they do, and the enor- 25% mous impact it has on our lives, the lack of attention from 20% the mainstream media is extraordinary. That is why I call 15% chemistry a neglected science.” Lyons said he is puzzled by writers’ and TV producers’ 10% avoidance of chemistry. One common explanation is that 5% chemists do not communicate information about their fields 0% Ages 18-29 Ages 30-49 Ages 50+ effectively. However it is clear from the Julian film that there are many articulate chemists. Lyons also suggested that many FIGURE 2-7 Media sources used by American (home broadband people are discouraged by their high school chemistry expe- Internet users) to obtain most of their science news and information, riences. “There is some truth in this, because badly taught grouped by age. The y axis is the percentage of those surveyed. chemistry has left a lot of people—writers and TV producers SOURCE: John Horrigan. 2006. The Internet as a Resource for included—with a lasting aversion to chemistry.” News and Information about Science. Washington, DC: Pew Inter- net & American Life Project. Available online at www.pewinternet. Another factor often cited is that chemistry is hard to org (accessed December 28, 2010). visualize, because it occurs at the molecular level. This is a handicap for filmmakers, but it has not stopped producers from making films about the Big Bang, black holes, super- Lyons spent the rest of his talk discussing two things that strings, and many other equally invisible things in physics. he thinks can have an even greater impact on improving Lyons thinks the main reason chemistry has been neglected chemistry communications: (1) exploiting the Internet and by popular media relates to the types of problems studied by (2) capitalizing on chemistry’s financial resources. chemists. From the media’s point of view, science is only as He explained how the sources for news and science infor- interesting as the questions it asks, such as: What is the origin mation have changed over the past 10 years. For example, of the universe? What accounts for the rise and fall of ancient the Pew Research Center on the People and the Press found civilizations? Can we keep the planet from overheating? that television continues to be the main source of news for What can we learn about ourselves from studying animal Americans.25 However, the percentage of those who obtain behavior? Can we find cures for AIDS or cancer? These are news from television, newspapers, and radio has declined, some of the questions pursued by scientists in cosmology, while the proportion obtaining news from the Internet has archeology, ecology, biology, and medicine—big captivating grown dramatically, passing all other sources except for local questions of interest to everyone. These questions make good TV. This trend is also seen in the media sources Americans subjects for books, articles, and TV programs. use to get news and information about science in particular. Lyons thinks chemists have not been good about articulat- The Pew Research Center also found that 40 million, or 20 ing those big questions. Many chemists seem to be focused percent, of Americans now rely on the Internet as their pri- on fairly narrow technical questions, not the kinds of big mary source for science news. Only television ranks higher questions that captivate a television audience or excite a at 41 percent. science writer. When they do have a discovery that might Lyons said this trend is even more pronounced among be of great public interest, many chemists are not very good young people with broadband access, as shown in Figure 2-7. at letting the world know about it. Biologists and physicists Among those ages 18 to 29, 44 percent said they accessed may not be any more articulate than chemists, but they are most of their science information from the Internet, surpass- more practiced when it comes to public relations and pro- ing television, and far outstripping all the other sources. moting their work. When asked which news source they go to first for science Lyons said that chemists are probably not going to change information, 76 percent of high-speed-connection users in the nature of their research just to get more media attention, this age group said they turn to the Internet. All other sources nor should they. However, if they are doing research that is combined totaled only 17 percent. potentially of interest to people outside their field, they can frame it in terms broad enough to appeal to the public. They could work with their institutions’ news offices to reach out 25 John Horrigan. 2006. The Internet as a Resource for News and Informa- to the media, as well as put in time working with writers and tion about Science. Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project. TV producers to make the stories as accurate and interesting Available online at www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2006/ as possible. PIP_Exploratorium_Science.pdf. (accessed December 28, 2010).
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16 CHEMISTRY IN PRIMETIME AND ONLINE Coke and Mentos geyser (ultrasonic soda fountain) video,27 Lyons said, “Clearly if the chemistry community’s goal is to communicate more effectively with young people, the shown in Figure 2-8, which at the time of this workshop Internet must be part of the strategy.” One potentially pow- had 9 million viewers. He said his effort was not bad for a erful tool for exploiting the Internet is video. For example, little video launched into cyberspace with no real publicity, s ince its founding 5 years ago, YouTube has come to but a series of chemistry videos with a regular home on the dominate the market with its eclectic mix of mostly amateur Internet where people knew to look for them would probably videos and clips from movies, TV shows, and music videos. do much better. However, the last 2 years has seen the emergence of another Based on teacher response to the first video he made, subtler trend, a growing number of high-quality videos cre- Lyons thinks such videos could be widely used in class- ated specifically for the Internet. In 2008, the New York Times rooms. He said chemistry teachers are hungry for video reported that more and more office workers are using their sources, particularly those that show chemistry at work lunch hours to watch short videos over the Internet, “video today. snacking.” In producing this online chemistry video, Lyon’s approach He noted that the explosion of Internet video is a tremen- was to treat it like a television magazine piece, yet keep the dous opportunity for the science community. It offers a new budget as low as possible. However, he said there are many channel for delivering scientific research news directly to the other potential ways to produce chemistry videos for the web, public without the barriers imposed by the broadcast media. although there are no standards or rules. Internet video is still There have been a few small steps in this direction, simple new, so nobody knows the best approach. video podcasts by journals such as Nature and isolated videos Lyons encouraged the chemistry community to embrace produced by museums and others. However, he said video video and experiment with it to see what works best. He said producers and the scientific community have barely begun the Internet offers a way to bypass media gatekeepers and get to tap the promise of this new medium. the content out to audiences that would like to see it. In the Lyons described his effort of 2 years ago, with support process, chemistry can be a real leader, showing scientists from the Dreyfus Foundation, in which his company pro- in other fields how they can use this new medium to reach duced a short online video on the water-splitting catalyst young people in creative ways. discovered by Dan Nocera at MIT. Because Nocera told him Lyons finished his talk by highlighting chemistry’s unique about the catalyst soon after its discovery, Lyons’ company position among the sciences. It is the foundation of a large was able to produce the video and have it ready to stream just and profitable industry, which sets it apart from other fields a few days after Nocera’s paper was published in Science. of science. He speculated that if the chemistry community They posted it on Blip.TV,26 a service that offers free video chose to, it could pool its resources to create a fund to bring distribution on the web. about greater coverage of chemistry, what he referred to as The viewership for the video started small but grew rap- the “Chemistry in Media Fund.” For example, if 10 donors idly after being noted by the Chemical Engineering News gave $250,000 a year, it would provide an annual fund of blog master. Following that reaction, Wired Science gave it $2.5 million, which could be used to support chemistry a positive review as well. This public exposure seems to be communications in all media sources. He said, “The result the reason viewership increased twentyfold overnight. All of would profoundly change the landscape, giving chemistry a this Internet traffic moved the water-splitting catalyst video much higher profile in the popular media than it has now.” onto the front page at Blip, where still more people viewed it. With science journalism in peril, people have begun to After 5 days it was one of the most viewed videos on the site. explore new business models that would allow it to survive This experience illustrates one of the main attractions of in a different form. One example Lyons gave is the organiza- tion Pro Publica,28 which pursues public interest investiga- Internet videos—the ease with which they can be dissemi- nated, Lyons said. This video can now be viewed on many tive journalism and is supported by a group of philanthropic websites, including at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, the organizations including the MacArthur Foundation. Another example is a service called Kaiser Health News,29 launched Dreyfus Foundation, MIT, NSF, and others. Understandably, he said viewer traffic for the video decreased after the initial by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Run by a former National excitement over the catalyst discovery, yet 9 months later, Cancer Institute science editor, it provides impartial coverage people were still watching. Lyons estimated that the video of health care issues. As the old advertising- and subscrip- has now been seen by 20,000 to 30,000 people. He noted however that this is trivial compared to chemistry-related 27See www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKoB0MHVBvM; 12,657,015 as of videos that have gone “viral,” such as the well known Diet November 11, 2010; also featured by Time Online at www.time.com/time/ specials/packages/article/0,28804,1974961_1974925_1973107,00.html . 28For more information, see www.propublica.org/ (accessed December 28, 2010). 29For more information, see www.kaiserhealthnews.org/ (accessed De- 26See www.blip.tv/file/1144655/ (accessed December 28, 2010). cember 28, 2010).
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17 INTRODUCTION TO INFORMAL LEARNING FIGURE 2-8 YouTube favorite, the “Diet Coke + Mentos” geyser. Mentos candies are dropped in bottles of diet coke soda, causing a rapid- foaming chemical reaction that shoots into the air like a geyser or fountain. Video available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKoB0MHVBvM SOURCE: Diet Coke and Mentos Fountain. Photo courtesy of EepyBird.com. tion-based business model crumbles, people in the media are public understanding of, and appreciation for, the field than looking for new means of support. Philanthropy is emerging all the image advertising the chemistry industry now invests as a strong contender. In this new climate, Lyons thinks the in, and at a small fraction of the costs. media would be receptive to support from the chemistry and Lyons said he has spent a lot of time talking with chemists media fund, as long as the funds are used to support solid over the last few years, and his sense is that chemists feel impartial science journalism. neglected by the press. They feel most people do not under- Lyons said that this is a good opportunity for the chem- stand or appreciate what they do. They have a story to tell, istry community, because it may be the best way to improve just as other scientists do, but for some reason their story is public understanding of chemistry and enhance appreciation not getting out there, and this bothers them. From his per- of the chemical enterprise. He said, “Today many Americans spective as an outside observer, this seems like an important come out of school with both a poor understanding of basic problem and one the chemistry community needs to confront, chemical concepts and a negative attitude toward chemistry. understand, and address. He thought the workshop might be The only way the chemistry community can turn this around, an important step in that direction. short of an overhaul of chemistry education, which is a sub- ject for another day, is to tap the one remaining conduit for Questions and Answers science learning, informal education.” In the first year alone, the chemistry and media fund might Jeannette Brown thanked Steve Lyons for the Percy Julian support a mixture of chemical communications. Over time, film, which she noted “is the only film that shows African- by supporting a wide array of informal science education American chemists.” She mentioned that the ACS Committee initiatives, Lyons thinks the fund would do more to enhance on Minority Affairs and the Women Chemists Committee
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18 CHEMISTRY IN PRIMETIME AND ONLINE are now working hard to start another film about Dr. Marie of individual people. Gradually, it will help people to see Daly, who was the first African-American woman to get a chemists in a different way. He said people generally have Ph.D. in chemistry. Brown further commented about the need no idea what chemists actually do in their work, so it would that exists for more materials about other underrepresented be useful to provide stories of their lives as a series of videos minorities, such as Hispanic and Native American chemists, on a television program or an online series of videos. His and how useful it would be to have those materials available video about Dan Nocera is a good example of showing the on the Internet. story of a chemist, how Nocera set out working for 20 years Steve Lyons responded that one of the most reward- to address the energy problem. A series of those kinds of ing things about the Julian project was having the chance, examples would help people to see chemistry in a new and with the support of the Dreyfus Foundation, to go out and more positive way. interview 60 people who knew Julian. Lyons and his team Mark Griep from the University of Nebraska asked about gathered information about Julian’s life and his scientific the use of chemical symbols and formulas in communicating career that would have otherwise been lost, making it a very chemistry to the public, such as the structure of physostig- rewarding experience. mine in the Percy Julian film. Lyons also agreed with Brown that her Daly project Ucko responded that in a museum, visitors come from would be ideal for the Internet, because more and more many different backgrounds. They range from people who teachers are looking online for educational materials. He know nothing about chemistry and would never recognize a said if she could help produce a series of short videos chemical symbol at all, to others who are Ph.D. chemists, so about African-American women in chemistry and African- there need to be varying degrees of content that support the Americans in other fields of science as well, they would experience. He suggested that chemical symbols not be the be widely used. He cautioned that videos should be kept starting point for engaging the public. He said the symbol short though, because that is what most Internet users have is often secondary to what the work of the chemist is really grown accustomed to. about, so it can be there at some point in the exhibit for those that would understand what it is or those who want to learn more. OPEN DISCUSSION 1 Lyons added that it is different in television. In the Percy David Ucko commented about NSF funding. He encour- Julian documentary, the use of letter symbols for chemicals aged those with good ideas to bring them to NSF. He said, was avoided entirely. There was not a single frame in the “We can only fund things that we get proposals for. So I entire film that showed a chemical formula. Instead of using would encourage folks to develop proposals for informal symbols, they used a simple ball and stick illustration to science education in chemistry.” help people understand the chemicals. An explanation was Bill Carroll commented that one of the difficulties in provided for the basic steroid structure of physostigmine and chemistry is counterbalancing the negative images. For how it could be modified by adding and subtracting pieces on example, he said, “If you cure someone it is medicine, if you the end of the structure. It was a very important concept in poison someone, it is chemistry. It is almost as though you understanding Julian’s work, and it was also simple enough have to undo that first.” for people to grasp. He explained how even if the audience Lyons agreed and said the best way he sees to address did not understand the details, they could get the idea that the the problem from the point of view of the media is to con- properties of molecule could be changed by adding different tinually show how chemistry is used through the stories pieces in different places.