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173 Programs for Young and Old 6 This chapter focuses on science learning programs for children, youth, and adults. These programs take place in many different environmentsâ schools, community centers, universities, and a range of informal institutions. They are held indoors and out and in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Program schedules vary, with some taking place daily and others weekly or even monthly. The way in which participants spend their time also varies. Some programs mirror a traditional classroom structure, with program leaders teaching mini-lessons and students practicing skills. Some programs conduct projects off-site in the community, and others take place in a science lab or field study setting. Program goals may include developing basic scientific knowledge, advancing academic school goals, or applying knowledge to improve the quality of life for the participant or the community. What these programs have in common is an organizational goal to achieve curricular endsâa goal that distinguishes them from everyday learning activi- ties and learning in designed environments. Science learning programs are typically led by a professional educator or facilitator, and, rather than being episodic and self-organized, they tend to extend for a period of weeks or months and serve a prescribed population of learners. Ideally, the programs are informal in designâthey are learner driven, identifying and building on the interests and motivations of the participant, and use assessment in constructive, formative ways to give learners useful, valued information. Yet as programs that retain much of the structure identified with schoolsâa curriculum that unfolds over time, facilitators or teachers, a consistent group of participantsâand yet that occur in nonschool hours, they have a natural tension. Nowhere is this tension more evident than in discussions of after-
174 Learning Science in Informal Environments school programs in which establishing learning goals, outcome measures, and accountability processes can be especially contentious (see Box 6-1). In this chapter we organize the discussion of programs for science learn- ing around three distinct age groups: children and youth in after-school and out-of-school programs; adults, including K-12 teachers; and older adults, who have unique developmental capabilities and life-course interests. The emphasis in this chapter on programs for school-age children, and specifi- cally after-school programs, reflects several considerations: â¢ committeeâs charge to examine the articulation between schools the and informal settings; â¢ scale and proliferation of out-of-school-time programs; the â¢ fact that there has been considerable research on this topic, much the of it evoking controversy that the committee hopes to illuminate and address; â¢ relative paucity of research on programs for adults (including the senior citizens); and â¢ promise of out-of-school time as a means of engaging a diverse the population of children and youth in science (e.g., U.S. Department of Education, 2003). LEARNING SCIENCE IN OUT-OF- SCHOOL-TIME PROGRAMS Out-of-school-time programs have existed for some time, first appearing at the end of the 19th century. Throughout the years, they have changed and adapted to serve different purposes, needs, and concerns, including provid- ing a safe environment, academic enrichment, socialization, acculturation, problem remediation, and play (Halpern, 2002). Diverging goals and the fact that multiple institutions and professional communities share claim to these programs has periodically caused tensions (see Box 6-2). Today, out-of-school-time programs typically incorporate three blocks of time devoted to (1) homework help and tutoring, (2) enriched learning experiences, and (3) nonacademic activities, such as sports, arts, or play (Noam, Biancarosa, and Dechausay, 2003). Programs are also expanding, in large part due to strong federal and private support. They continue to be supported by various stakeholders with diverse goals for a broad range of student populations. The bulk of the research on out-of-school-time programs has occurred in the past two decades in conjunction with a rise in governmental and public â We use the term âout-of-schoolâ to refer to the broad set of educational programs that take place before or after the school day and during nonschool periods, such as summer vacation.
Programs for Young and Old 175 support for them. Politicians, parents, and educators increasingly view these programs as an important developmental contributor in the lives of young people and a necessary component of public education. One indication of their importance is funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLCs), a federal program providing out-of-school-time care: it rose from zero in 1994, to $40 million in 1998, to $1 billion in 2002 (U.S. Department of Education, 2003). In 2007, the House of Representatives voted to increase funding to $1.1 billion (Afterschool Alliance, 2008). Society has also witnessed changes in the workforce, resulting in a greater proportion of homes in which all adults are employed and an in- crease in student participation in out-of-school-time programs and other care arrangements. In 2005, 40 percent of all students in grades K-8 were in at least one weekly nonparental out-of-school-time care arrangement (National Center for Education Statistics, 2006). School-based or center-based programs were the most common care arrangement. Out-of-school-time programs have the potential to provide large-scale enrichment opportunities that were once reserved for wealthier families. In fact, at the 21st CCLCs, more than half the participants are of minority background and from low- income schools. The students who attend most frequently are more likely to be black, from single-parent homes, low-income, and on public assistance. This means that out-of-school-time programs often serve the most vulner- able populations. One consequence of this demographic structure is that much of the research on learning in out-of-school-time programs focuses on nondominant groups, a feature that will be seen in the evidence cited throughout this chapter. Evidence of Science Learning Despite its long history, research on learning in general in out-of-school programs is controversial and inconclusive (Miller, 2003; Dynarski et al., 2004; Bissel et al., 2003). However, a range of evaluation studies show that out-of- school programs can have positive effects on participantsâ attitudes toward science, grades, test scores, graduation rates, and specific science knowledge and skills (Gibson and Chase, 2002; Building Science and Engineering Tal- ent, 2004; Archer, Fanesali, Froschl, and Sprung, 2003; Project Exploration, 2006; Ferreira, 2001; Harvard Family Research Project, 2003; DeHaven and Weist, 2003; Jarman, 2005; Campbell et al., 1998, as cited in Fancsali, 2002; Brenner, Hudley, Jimerson, and Okamoto, 2001; Johnson, 2005; Fusco, 2001; Jeffers, 2003). Yet there is little evidence of a synthesized literature on out- of-school-time science programs. Program goals, outcome measures used to evaluate them, and research methods vary tremendously in this area. Some researchers, drawing on social psychology and youth development traditions, are primarily concerned with the development of positive attitudes, skills, and social relationships. Other
176 Learning Science in Informal Environments BOX 6-1âThe Relationship Between School and Out-of-School Programs Historically, relationships between school and out-of-school programsâ particularly community-based out-of-school programsâhave often been characterized by mutual mistrust and conflict. In a report based on 10 years of research studying approximately 120 youth-based community organizations throughout the United States, McLaughlin (2000) explains, âadults working with youth organizations frequently believe that school people do not respect or value their young people. Educators, for their part, generally see youth or- ganizations as mere âfunâ and as having little to contribute to the business of schools. Moreover, educators often establish professional boundaries around learning and teaching, considering them the sole purview of teachers. If we want to better serve our youth, there is an obvious need for rethinking the relationship between schools and out-of-school programs, particularly for out- of-school programs that have an academic focus such as science.â In Afterschool Education, Noam, Biancarosa, and Dechausay (2003) outline different models of relationships between school and out-of-school programs in an effort to create better relationships, management connections, and interesting curricula and materials. At one extreme, there is the model of âunifiedâ programs that are the equivalent of what is now called extended- day programming. Under this model, out-of-school programs can become essentially indistinguishable from school, since they take place in the same space and are usually under the same leadership (the school principal). At the other extreme lie âself-containedâ programs, which intentionally choose to be separate from schools. Taking place in a different location, they often provide students with an entirely different experience from school. Between these two extremes lie three other models: âassociated,â âcoordinated,â and âintegrated,â each connecting out-of-school programs with schools at different levels of intensity. Noam and colleagues also outline the different ways these researchers are more concerned with academic skills and improved academic achievement, as measured by standardized test scores, grades, graduation rates, and continued involvement in school science (Campbell et al., 1998; Building Engineering and Science Talent, 2004; Brenner et al., 2001). Given these different approaches (and the concerns we noted in Chapter 3 about relying on solely academic outcomes), we cannot provide definitive conclu-
Programs for Young and Old 177 connections can take place, dividing them into interpersonal, systemic, and curricular domains. The curricular domain is perhaps the most significant one in the discussion of relationships between out-of-school science and school science, although it is obviously influenced by such factors as physical loca- tion, philosophy, and interpersonal relationships. These models of relationships between out-of-school programs and school can be used as a foundation for more specific models describing the spectrum of relationships between out- of-school science and school science. With the associated model, the out-of-school curriculum is closely con- nected to the school curriculum. Out-of-school coordinators and staff know on a week-by-week basis the material teachers are covering in class and can directly connect it to out-of-school activities. Out-of-school science is essentially an extension of school science, but with a more informal feel. The benefit of this model is that out-of-school and school science are connected, and the connection between the two is explicit. In the coordinated model, out-of-school science programs connect their activities to the general school science curriculum and standards but not to what students are learning in class on a daily or weekly basis. This model avoids some of the conflicts between science in schools and out-of-school programs, while allowing out-of-school programs to support studentsâ learning in schools. It also has logistical benefits, since it does not require the same level of planning and day-to-day communication between schoolteachers and out-of-school staff. Finally, in the integrated model, out-of-school science is entirely dis- connected from school science. Out-of-school programs make sure that participants are engaging in high-quality science experiences, but consider it undesirable for students to connect out-of-school science to school science. By keeping the two worlds separate, integrated out-of-school programs say they can provide students with an alternate entry point into science if they have already been turned off from school science. sions about what learning outcomes can be achieved. Our goal here is to organize the evidence of science-specific learning outcomes in a way that can provide a foundation for exploring two questions more thoroughly in the future: To what extent are the types of science-specific goals described in this report reflected in the evidence base? How do the commitments of
178 Learning Science in Informal Environments BOX 6-2â Learning Goals for Science Learning Programs There is an ongoing debate about the goals of out-of-school programs and appropriate measures for evaluating them. On one side of the debate are those who view out-of-school time as an extension of regular school time. They argue that, in an age of accountability, when many students are failing to meet state and national academic standards, out-of-school time should be used to further the academic goals of schools. On the other side of the debate are those who view out-of-school time as part of the broader realm of development. In their view, out-of-school pro- grams should ensure healthy development and well-being for participants by developing personal and social assets in physical, intellectual, psychological, emotional, and social development domains (Institute of Medicine, 2002). The focus in programming is less on the acquisition of specific academic skills and knowledge and much more on providing a physically and psychologically safe environment with supportive relationships and a sense of belonging. Adding a science focus does not conflict with these nonacademic outcomes. Learners informal education, such as learner choice and low-stakes assessment, shape the program and evaluation agenda in out-of-school settings? In many cases, the dominance of a youth development, academic ac- countability, or science-specific perspective is evident in program goals and outcome measures. In an effort to integrate the findings and identify patterns of strong evidence with respect to science-specific outcomes across studies, we integrate the evidence across these varied perspectives. We examine evi- dence in light of the strands of science learningâsome but not all of which are evident in the research base on out-of-school-time programs. Strand 1: Developing Interest in Science Promoting interest in science is a common goal of out-of-school science programs (e.g., Brenner et al., 2001; Building Science and Engineering Tal- ent, 2004; Gibson and Chase, 2002; Archer et al., 2003; Project Exploration, 2006). A number of evaluations that have examined this outcome suggest that sustained engagement in out-of-school science programs can promote science interest. For example, a comparison study by Gibson and Chase (2002) exam-
Programs for Young and Old 179 must feel safe with science and find value in it if they are to make progress along the strands. A science focus does call for careful attention to the specificity of socio- emotional and cognitive outcomesâthat is, to the ways that out-of-school programs may contribute specifically to the learning outcomes described in the strands. In fact, out-of-school settings may provide a place where science learning can have a greater impact through higher âdosageâ than incidental ex- periences in designed settings without losing an informal feel. Lucy Friedman, president of The After-School Corporation, writes, âWhile both the afterschool and science fields are at a crossroads, association with the other enhances the potential for each to flourishâ (Friedman, 2005, p. 75). It has also become more important to find new venues for science learning as time spent on science in schools decreases (Dorph et al., 2007; McMurrer, 2007). Schools classified as âin need of improvementâ under the No Child Left Behind Act, in particular, have limited science instructional time; 43 percent of these schools have cut science to an average of 91 minutes per week (McMurrer, 2007). ined the effects of a two-week summer science program for middle school students that employed inquiry-based instruction. Using stratified random sampling, the researchers selected a group of 158 students to participate in the summer program; of these 79 participated in the study. In addition, a group of 35 students who applied for the program but were not selected to participate in the summer program and a group of 500 students who did not apply to participate in the summer program served as comparison groups. Two surveys were used to gauge studentsâ interest in science, and qualitative interview data were collected from 22 students who attended the summer program. There was complete longitudinal data for only 8 of the 35 students who applied for the program but were not selected. By following these three groups over a five-year time period, the re- searchers were able to determine not only if the two-week program had an immediate effect on participantsâ attitudes toward science, but also if this interest was sustained over time. In all three groups, interest in science decreased, but students who participated in the two-week science program retained a more positive attitude toward science and higher interest in sci- ence careers than the other two groups. Although outcomes were not tightly linked to program features or components, the study focused on the role
180 Learning Science in Informal Environments of an inquiry-based approach to teaching science in increasing studentsâ long-term interest in science. In interviews conducted several years after completion of the program, program participants pointed to its hands-on, inquiry-based nature as what they best remembered and most enjoyed ( Â Gibson and Chase, 2002). A large number of other studies also indicate that participation in out- of-school programs focused on science and mathematics can support more positive attitudes toward science, particularly among girls. For example, several noncomparative studies of Operation SMART, an out-of-school-time program for girls ages 6-18, showed increased levels of confidence and com- fort with mathematics and science immediately after the program (Building Science and Engineering Talent, 2004). Operation SMARTâs curriculum also consists of hands-on, inquiry-based activities. Project Exploration, an out-of-school-time program that primarily serves students from groups that are typically underrepresented in the sciencesâ80 percent low income, 90 percent minority, and 73 percent femaleâhas remark- able statistics on participantsâ sustained interest in science: 25 percent of all students and 35 percent of female students major in sciences in college (Archer et al., 2003; Project Exploration, 2006). Project Exploration serves students in the Chicago public schools, and an alliance with the school district appears to be strategic in allowing its services to reach a traditionally underserved population. When compared with the graduation rate of students attending the same schools, Project Exploration alumni graduate from high school at a rate 18 percent higher than their peers. These data suggest a positive result, but the basis for selection into the program is not explained in the evalua- tion reports, other than the statement that âacademic achievement is not a requirement for selection into Project Exploration programs. . . . [I]t is not known whether the students are exactly representative of their respective schools. Additional data [are] needed to increase confidence in this measureâ (Project Exploration, 2006, p. 6). In a program in which African American middle school girls worked on projects with female engineers, participating girls held more positive attitudes toward science class and science careers after participation in the program (Ferreira, 2001). This study emphasized the importance of female mentors in changing the girlsâ attitudes toward science (with the caveat that, to be most successful, mentors must have subject matter expertise as well as pedagogical knowledge of cooperative learning strategies). Two other studies of summer science programs for girls showed similar positive results. A three-year evaluation of Raising Interest in Science and Engineering, a program aimed at increasing middle school girlsâ confidence in mathematics and science and decreasing attrition in secondary-level mathematics and science classes reported that 86 percent of participants planned on pursuing careers in mathematics and science, and 52 percent had changed their career plans after participating in the program (Jarvis, 2002).
Programs for Young and Old 181 An important component of the program was that each participant was given a female mentor, most of whom were Latina and African American college students studying engineering. The Girls Math and Technology Program placed a similar emphasis on female role models for middle school girls and also showed increased confidence in mathematics based on pre- and post-test data (DeHaven and Weist, 2003). These studies also support the observation made in Chapter 2 and else- where that the strands must be understood as interrelated. For example, here the evidence indicates that interest (Strand 1) can be sustained over many years. At some point, a sustained interest in science is likely to change the ways in which individuals understand the concepts in a domain (Strand 2) and how they view themselves in relation to science (Strand 6). Strand 2: Understanding Scientific Knowledge Several studies have examined studentsâ learning of science concepts and explanations by relying largely on academic outcome measuresâtest scores, grades, and graduation rates. One program exception is an evalu- ation of Kinetic City After School (Johnson, 2005). Kinetic City includes a variety of investigations, hands-on activities, and games, as well as an inter- active website with science adventures, all organized to support particular standards drawn from the Benchmarks for Science Literacy (American As- sociation for the Advancement of Science, 1993). The evaluation included a pre- and post-test based on the programâs learning goals, which included concepts pertaining to animal biology (e.g., classification and adaptation). Students also completed a creative writing activity that incorporated their understanding of the scientific concepts covered in the program. Mean scores for both components of the evaluation (pre/post-tests and the writing task) increased after completion of the program, suggesting that students acquire content knowledge through participation. Johnson also compared the effects on program participants who had access to an additional computer-based component of the program (the Kinetic City website) with those who did not. She found that the inclusion of the website component led to significantly greater positive impact on studentsâ science knowledge. Three other programsâGateway; Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA); and the Gervirtz Summer Academyâhave shown positive effects using academic outcome measures. Gateway is an out-of- school-time mathematics and science program for high school students from nondominant groups. It includes an academic summer program and separate mathematics and science classes during the school day that involve only Gateway students (Campbell et al., 1998). The study of the impact of Gateway included a matched comparison group of students who were not in the program. It found that participants had better high school gradua- tion rates, better SAT scores, and were more likely to complete high school
182 Learning Science in Informal Environments mathematics and science classes than students in the control group. And 92 percent of students who completed the Gateway program attended college, and the colleges they attended had mean SAT scores higher than the studentsâ own scores. Although the Gateway results show that programs supporting science and math can have significant effects on important school-based measures, it is important to note that, because Gateway consisted of many different forms of support (e.g., summer and in-school), it is unclear whether to attribute impact to one or another component or to a synergy among the program components. The MESA Schools Program is designed to improve middle and high school studentsâ success in mathematics and science and increase the numbers of students from nondominant cultural backgrounds who pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The pro- gram includes academic tutoring and counseling, peer supports (e.g., study groups, scheduling cohorts of participants in common courses), field trips, summer internships, and campus-based summer programs. The results of a study conducted in 1982 showed that MESA students had higher grade point averages than non-MESA students and, by senior year, the MESA students had taken more mathematics and science courses (Building Engineering and Science Talent, 2004). The Gevirtz Summer Academy is an experimental five-week academic enrichment program. The curriculum reflects the local district curricular standards and takes an experiential and integrated instructional approach. The academy uses science as a unifying theme to teach language arts, math- ematics, and science. A pre- and post-test evaluation examined the programâs effect on student attitudes as well as on standardized test scores (Brenner et al., 2001). A total of 94 students participated in the evaluation the first year, and 120 students participated in the second and third years. A matched com- parison group was recruited from the same schools as the study participants. Comparing pre- and post-measures, evaluators found significant increases in studentsâ interest in science and in science careers and in their confidence and motivation in science. There were also improvements in studentsâ sci- ence test scores, but not in their mathematics test scores. The Gervitz evaluators (Brenner et al., 2001) also pointed to the limi- tations of using standardized tests as a measure of the learning that took place in the program. They explain: âIt was mandated by the school district and the funding agencies that we had to use standardized test scores as documentation of the benefits of the program. It is somewhat unrealistic that a five-week program would be able to greatly influence the scores on a test that is designed to measure a school year of learning.â They also point to the fact that the SAT 9 tests that they used, particularly the mathematics test, focused on basic skills, whereas the program curriculum was geared toward conceptual learning and the integration of mathematics, science, and language arts.
Programs for Young and Old 183 The problem of using standardized test scores as a measure of out-of- school-time learning is also noted by Kane (2004). He discusses the question of what are reasonable expectations of test impact for out-of-school-time programs. He points out that an entire year of classroom instruction is esti- mated to raise achievement test scores a quarter of a standard deviation. By this measure, an out-of-school-time program providing students with an hour of instruction five days per week could be expected to raise test scores 0.05 standard deviation (assuming there is 100 percent attendance every day). The Gervitz program chose to focus on a limited number of curricular standards, given the short amount of time that they had (five weeks), and as a result only a few questions on the standardized test pertained to the material that was covered. In the third year of the program, the teachers decided to design a mathematics test based on their own curriculum and found positive gains in the studentsâ scores. It is also important to note that the Gateway, MESA, and Gervitz programs all use elements beyond those typically used in after-school programs (e.g., extended day, integrated school subject matter). Similarly, the Kinetic City follow-up study found that an added media environment improved outcomes (for more on the impact of media, see Chapter 8). There is no conclusive finding here about how environments should be integrated or about the optimal relationship between out-of-school and school curricula, however, the positive outcomes for learners of integration is important to note. At the very least, these results support the assertion that helping learners extend their experiences across settings through multiple representations of concepts, practices, and phenomena is a promising design. Strand 3: Engaging in Scientific Reasoning We identified no clear emphasis on Strand 3 in out-of-school programs, nor studies that evaluated the effectiveness of program emphasis on Strand 3 skills. However, in some instances, Strand 3 skills are clearly a part of pro- grams. For example, the Service at Salado Program, described under Strand 5, is an environmental education and remediation program that introduces students to writing up scientific protocols, which typically includes testing and prediction, key elements of scientific reasoning. Strand 4: Reflecting on Science Although we turned up little research that focused on reflection on sci- ence as an outcome of out-of-school programs, there is clearly some program emphasis in this area. For example, the Kinetic City evaluation (Johnson, 2005) described how participants were asked to write an essay requiring them to recall certain aspects of the program from the perspective of a crea- ture in the rain forest and to integrate information acquired over the course
184 Learning Science in Informal Environments of performing project-designed learning activities. In this case, participants were reflecting on the experience and what they learned, though with no clear emphasis on science. Among the venues for science learning, out-of-school programs may be the most logical place to seriously pursue learning related to Strand 4. As discussed in Chapter 4, there is strong evidence that many children and adults struggle to understand science as a dynamic process in which knowledge is developed, vetted, and shared through sophisticated social processes. As settings in which participants can develop knowledge over longer periods of time with a common group of peers, out-of-school programs seem well suited to exploration of this important aspect of science learning. Strand 5: Engaging in Scientific Practices Participation in science is a broad construct, which includes doing sci- ence, using specialized ways of talking about science, and using scientific tools. In a very general sense, one can point to the vast, expanding scale of out-of-school science programming as a crude estimate of participation in science. Participation in a more nuanced senseâfor example, groups that work in an interdependent fashion to make intellectual progress on a com- plex problemâcan be facilitated through specialized social structures that decentralize authority and create multiple ways in which even novice learners can participate. Box 6-3 describes one such program, The Fifth Dimension, which has had tremendous success in supporting learner participation though it is not science-specific. A few science-specific efforts in out-of-school programs have also fo- cused on participation. For example in the program Critical Science, students developed and implemented a plan to turn an empty lot in New York City into a community garden (Fusco, 2001). Students engaged in activities related to a variety of middle school science performance standards defined by the school system, such as science connections, scientific thinking, scientific tools and technology, and scientific communication. A product-oriented model of assessment similar to portfolio assessment, in which descriptions and artifacts reflecting studentsâ participation in the program was used as evidence of learning. In Service at Salado, an after-school science program combining service and learning, middle school students, undergraduate student mentors, and university-based scientists work together to learn about an urban riverbed habitat through classroom lessons and service and learning activities (Saltz, Crocker, and Banks, 2004). This program includes many of the components evident in the successful Fifth Dimension Program described in Box 6-3. In the classroom, students were taught about ecology in an urban setting and also learned about teamwork and leadership. Groups visited a local urban riverbed habitat two or three times during the semester to explore and ap-
Programs for Young and Old 185 ply what they learned in the classroom. Toward the end of the program, the interns worked with the students on producing products that will benefit the urban riverbed habitat. When evaluating Service at Salado, the evaluators used the participatory goals of the programâthe specific things participants would do as opposed to what they would knowâto frame their evaluation (Saltz et al., 2004). Outcomes included students being able to implement a scientific protocol and write up, present, and defend their results, as well as showing aware- ness of urban ecology issues. The program evaluators used an observation inventory and focus group responses to measure student use of scientific protocols and technology, and they used an observation protocol to assess teamwork and leadership. A short-answer pre-post survey was used to gauge student interest in postsecondary education and careers, and a Likert scale pre-post survey was used to assess civic responsibility. On the basis of these measures, participation was associated with increases in participants use of scientific protocols and technologies, improved teamwork and leadership, greater interest in careers in which they could help people or animals, and a better understanding of civic responsibilities. However, no comparison group was used, so causal claims about the impact of the experience are not supportable. Strand 6: Identifying with the Scientific Enterprise We came across little use of the construct âidentityâ in research and evaluation of out-of school science programs. However, a number of studies examine a suite of outcome measures that collectively may point to identity development. For example, several studies show that science programs, when deeply embedded in community issues and attuned to studentsâ cultural back- grounds, can support development of strong science interest that is sustained long after participation, particularly among minority and low-income students or students living in disadvantaged communities (Au, 1980; Davidson, 1999; Erickson and Mohatt, 1982; Zacharia and Calabrese Barton, 2003). There is also attention to creating spaces that are conducive to inter- weaving science with oneâs own identity. Moje, Collazo, Carillo, and Marx (2001), documenting the clash between competing school and community discourses in a science classroom, argue for the necessity of constructing a âthird spaceâ for science learning that bridges the classroom and the com- munity (see discussion of third spaces in Chapters 2 and 4). âIn many ways, the construction of congruent third spaces in classrooms requires the decon- struction of boundaries between classroom and community, especially for students who are often at the margins of mainstream classroom lifeâ (p. 492). Moje and colleagues recommend bringing together studentsâ home lives and school lives by creating spaces in which studentsâ everyday discourses are intentionally brought into the classroom to enhance scientific learning, instead
186 Learning Science in Informal Environments BOX 6-3â The Fifth Dimension After-School Program The Fifth Dimension Program aims to teach students technological literacy skills as well as a range of basic literacy, mathematical, and problem-solving skills in after-school settings (Cole and Distributed Literacy Consortium, 2006). This program is designed specifically to function under the real constraints of an after-school program. Specifically, it seeks to balance fun with academic goals, assumes a very modest budget, and strategically leverages human resources to make up for low levels of trained staff. The Fifth Dimension uses a unique social structure to engage learners and facilitate earnest engagement with complex tasks. In its ideal form, the program deploys university faculty and undergraduate students as instructional resources. Undergraduates enrolled in courses that cover the programâs de- velopmental principles serve as co-participants in childrenâs play and learning. Following each session, the undergraduates write up field notes that are used to plan subsequent sessions and to communicate with faculty. A web-based Wizard distributes tasks to participants, which they solve collectively over the course of one or several sessions. Participants work in groups of two or three on a computer and spend much of their time playing games, such as Boggle and chess, or engaging in activities such as origami. The Wizard periodically communicates with participants to assign tasks and adventures, which require participants to learn new games or skills, or to test particular problem-solving strategies in games in their groups. The Wizard stays in touch with the group through its webpage, e-mail, or chats of trying to compete with it. Out-of-school programs are well positioned to be such a third space, navigating among schools, families, and communities (Noam, 2001; Noam et al., 2003). As we have observed, numerous studies show that out-of-school-time science programs are associated with interest in science and science careers among children and adolescents. Studies also provide evidence that some programs have documented associations with graduation rates, grades, and test scores. Evaluations show that through participation in out-of-school science programs, students may increase their science content knowledge, learn scientific skills, and develop their ability to think scientifically. Repeated studies, increasingly rigorous designs, and careful definition of science-specific learning measures could help fortify these promising findings.
Programs for Young and Old 187 to facilitate and support efforts to fulfill tasks. A series of controlled evaluations across three Fifth Dimension programs, including pre-post assessments and a controlled quasi-experimental design, showed significant gains across a range of outcomes. Studying students after 10-20 sessions, Mayer and colleagues (1997) found positive outcomes for computer skills (knowledge of new terms and facts, operating a computer), reading comprehension, and problem-solving skills. Although there were no science-specific learning outcomes, the broad range of positive results sug- gests that the program design is promising. One other feature of the program deserves mention here. The Fifth Di- mension Program succeeded in creating an after-school environment in which heterogeneous groups regularly engage in joint, dialogic problem solving. Building these cognitively rich activities into a program organized on a drop-in basis is extremely rare and can be quite difficult to create, even in classrooms in which training levels and other resources are more abundant. Brown and Cole (1997) attribute this success to the social structureâchildren, undergradu- ates as helpers and co-participants, and the computer-based Wizardâwhich decentralizes authority and invites and supports participantsâ curiosity and sustained engagement. Future research and development could examine which elements of this approach could be emulated in science-specific programming and specifically test ways of structuring learner and facilitator roles to build productive, engaged scientific inquiry. While still relatively new, the study of out-of-school science programs holds great potential. To realize this potential, it will be necessary not only to greatly expand the body of literature regarding out-of-school science pro- grams, but also to define the hoped-for outcomes. Basing these outcomes on the specific science learning that takes place in each individual program, rather than defining outcomes using standardized test criteria or interest in science careers, is perhaps a more effective strategy. PROGRAMS FOR ADULT SCIENCE LEARNING Adultsâ interest in science tends to be more pragmatic than childrenâs interest. Adult science learning experiences are often self-motivated and
188 Learning Science in Informal Environments closely connected to individual interest or life circumstances. Adults tend not to be generalists in their pursuit of science learning; instead, they tend to become experts in specific domains of interest in relation to the problems of everyday life (as discussed in Chapter 4). Thus, they become knowledge- able and conversant about concepts and explanations in specific domains (Sachatello-Sawyer, 2006). Many of the venues in which adults engage with science, both as facilita- tors and as learners, cross somewhat artificial boundaries between âeveryday lifeâ and out-of-school programs. For example, as chaperones of family or school groups visiting informal institutions, adults support the science learning of others by answering questions, leading group discussions, and using various other strategies. In their everyday experiences, they build their own understanding of science through observations of the natural world, attending to media-based science programming, and through conversations with other adults. Of particular interest for this chapter is that adults may then choose to engage in more program-based learning to pursue topics of interest. However, adult learners have repeatedly been found to identify informal institutions as essentially geared toward children, not their own adult learner interests (Sachatello-Sawyer, 2006). This point is critical to understanding science programming for adult learners, because the adult perception is often mistaken. In fact, informal institutions host and organize many adult programs, and they could potentially engage more adults if they were perceived as interested in adult learners. This section describes a variety of programs for adult science learning in informal settings. It includes programs associated with cultural institu- tions (e.g., museums, universities, science centers, labs, clinics) and ones developed and sustained by self-organized science enthusiasts and activists. It also includes health-related programs and programs designed for K-12 teachers and science educators in informal settings. We also examine the unique considerations of, and programs designed for, older adults. Most of the studies the committee reviewed are descriptive and did not focus on learning outcomes, so a strand by strand synthesis of the literature was not plausible. Instead, relevant strands of learning are highlighted in the descrip- tion of each program type. Characteristics of Adult Programs Sachatello-Sawyer and colleagues (2002) surveyed over 100 institutions that offer science learning experiences across the country to assess the num- ber and type of adult programs. The studies surveyed staff and participants from informal institutions of varied sizes and types (e.g., art institutes, natural and cultural history museums, science centers, botanical gardens) and across types of programs (e.g., credited and noncredited classes, teacher training classes, guided tours, lectures). They found that nearly all institutions offered
Programs for Young and Old 189 some sort of adult museum program (94 percent), but the majority of the programs (63 percent) were designed for families or children. They also found that institutions reported offering more adult programs than ever before (Sachatello-Sawyer et al., 2002). However, interviews with 508 museum program participants, 75 instructors, and 143 museum plan- ners indicated that many of the programs were struggling to connect with and attract an audience. Lectures were the most commonly cited program offered, and they were viewed as dull from the adult learnerâs perspective. Adults wanted to learn more from museum programs and wanted exposure to unique people, places, and objects. They had positive impressions of programs that exposed them to new perspectives, attitudes, insights, and appreciations. It is also important to bear in mind a limitation to the findings: the programs reported attracting a highly homogenous population that was more white and more highly educated than the communities in which the institutions were located. The study found that no single teaching or facilitation methodology worked best across situations. It was most important that the facilitator or instructor related to the needs and interests of the learners and helped them discuss, integrate, reflect on, and apply new insights. In fact, many partici- pants indicated that it was their relationship with the facilitator that was the most important aspect of the program. From the data collected, the authors argue that science centers and museums have great potential to develop ex- hibits and programs to reach adult learners. This can be achieved for older adultsâand in preparation for the movement of the baby boom age group into their retirement yearsâby incorporating what is known about this group into the instructional framework and addressing issues of diversity, including cultural issues and age-related disabilities. A wide range of impacts were reported by the program participants. Sachatello and colleagues depict the effects as a pyramid, with the most common and basic effectâacquiring new knowledgeâat the bottom and the less common life-changing experiences at the apex. Between these extremes are four levels of participant-reported impact: expanded or new relationships, increased appreciation, changed attitudes, and transformed perspectives. These findings suggest that adult programs can impact each of the strands of learning. More detailed analysis of these impacts is found in the next sections, which look at three categories of adult programs (those on which we found the most relevant literature): citizen science, health, and teacher professional development programs. Citizen Science and Volunteer Monitoring Programs Citizen science and volunteer monitoring programs encourage networks of volunteers, including both adults and children, to engage in scientific practice (Strand 5) through the collection of data for scientific investigations,
190 Learning Science in Informal Environments providing adults with opportunities to gain scientific knowledge (Strand 2), test and explore the physical world (Strand 3), understand science as a way of knowing (Strand 4), and develop positive attitudes toward science (Strand 6). They are often organized and administered through scientific organizations, such as university-based labs and local environmental groups. The broad goals of citizen science include enabling scientists to conduct research in more feasible ways than they could without the participation of volunteers and promoting the public understanding of science. As Krasny and Bonney (2004) have noted, citizen science may also engage nonscientists in decision making about policy issues that have technical or scientific components and engage scientists in the democratic and policy processes. The specific focus of a given volunteer science program may include basic scientific goals, such as tracking migratory species, gathering climate data, or documenting species behavior (Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 2008). Or programs may focus on changing behavior (e.g., preservation/environmental goals) or be closely linked to informing particular policy concerns. A project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) designed to enhance the ability of citizen science projects to achieve success had identi- fied, by November 2007, more than 50 published scientific articles based on citizen science data, along with other articles assessing the data quality, educational processes, and impact of citizen science projects (http://www. citizenscience.org). For example, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network is primarily concerned with a basic science issueâgathering data on weather patterns in the central Great Plains region of the United States (Albright, 2006). Trained volunteers, including adults and children, used inexpensive instruments to measure precipitation across the region, which typically was highly variable. Data collected through the network provided scientists with detailed local precipitation data and supported more sophisticated weather modeling. Other programs focus on basic scientific questions that have clear policy implications. For example, Lee, Duke, and Quinn (2006) reported on Road Watch in the Pass, which engaged citizens in reporting wildlife sightings along a stretch of highway. The dataset generated new insights into the location of automobile-wildlife collisions that were not evident in models previously developed, providing important, empirically established guidelines for policy makers as they planned road maintenance and construction. The number and scale of citizen science programs is increasing (Cohen, 1997; http://pathfinderscience.net/; http://www.citizenscience.org). The e Â ffects of these projects on participantsâ knowledge and attitudes toward science have rarely been documented (Brossard, Lewenstein, and Bonney, 2005), although efforts to increase assessment are actively in progress (http:// www.citizenscience.org). The current evidence base sheds some light on participant learning; however, it is limited and in some ways contradictory, as illustrated in the literature reviewed below. To show the promising nature
Programs for Young and Old 191 of some of these programs and describe areas that need further analysis, we consider findings from two studies closely. Brossard et al. (2005) studied participants in The Birdhouse Network (TBN) to explore the hypotheses that participation in this program resulted in new knowledge of bird biology and behavior (Strand 2), a richer sense of science as practiced by scientists (Strand 4), and more positive attitudes toward science (Strand 6). Participants were asked to place âone or more nest boxes in their yards or neighborhoods, then to observe and report data on the nest boxes and their inhabitants while following one or more of four different protocols focusing on the clutch size of each nest; the calcium in- take by the birds; the feathers used in the nests; and the nest site selection. Participants receive detailed explanations of the scientific protocols to be followed, biological information about cavity-nesting species, and practical information concerning nest box design, construction, and monitoring. In- teraction with TBN staff by phone, email, or through an electronic mailing list is strongly encouragedâ (p. 1103). Using a quasi-experimental design Brossard and colleagues administered pre- and post-surveys to a nonrandom sample of TBN participants (300 pre-, 200 post-, and 400 science-interested new TBN member nonparticipants in the control group). The response rates for the treatment group were 57 percent (at pretest) and 63 percent (at posttest), and for the control group, 29 and 53 percent, respectively. To measure knowledge, attitude, and inter- est in science, the researchers used several instruments that are commonly used repeatedly in science education research (such as the Attitudes To- wards Organized Science Scale, ATOSS). In addition, a team of scientists, science communicators, and science educators developed an instrument to test participantsâ knowledge of 10 specific concepts and facts pertaining to bird behavior and biology, reflected in such statements as âMost songbirds lay one egg per day during the breeding season,â âClutch size refers to the number of eggs a female bird can fit in her nest,â and âAll birds line their nest with feathers.â There was found significant improvement in the treatment groupâs specific knowledge of bird biology and behavior, while the control group showed no significant change. There were no significant changes in the treatment or comparison groupâs understanding of the scientific process or in attitudes toward science and the environment. This may have been due to a ceiling effect. Both the control and the comparison groups were part of TBN and thus may have been interested in and knowledgeable about science and the environment prior to the study. The authors theorized that the program had the potential to influence participantsâ understanding of the nature of science, but that this particular goal would need to be made explicit to them. Results from a study of participants in a different program revealed a different pattern of outcomes. Overdevest and colleagues (2004) studied participants in the Water Action Volunteer (WAV) Program, a volunteer stream
192 Learning Science in Informal Environments monitoring program, to discern impact on individualsâ knowledge of stream- related topics (Strand 2), their levels of participation in resource-related management issues (Strand 5), and the degree of community networking regarding resource-related management issues. Like TBN, WAV is an ongoing program in which individual volunteers track a scientific issueâin this case, water qualityâover time, using scientific protocols and under the auspices of a scientific organization. Overdevest and colleagues used a nonequivalent group, quasi-experi- mental design with two groups: 155 experienced participants, who had been involved in the group for at least a year, and 105 inexperienced participants, who had expressed interest in the group at the beginning of the study but who had not yet participated in WAV activities. In contrast to the findings of Brossard and colleagues, Overdevest and col- leagues found that experienced participants exhibited greater participation in political issues related to water quality, enhanced their personal networks, and built community connections among the group of volunteers. But compared to inexperienced participants, experienced participants did not demonstrate greater knowledge of streams as a result of their participation. Looking at these two studies side-by-side suggests that adult participants can develop various capabilities as a result of these kinds of programs, but does not clearly answer questions such as: Which capabilities are best developed in particular types of programs? What specific program features are associated with learning outcomes? What kinds of programs or program features support the learning of concepts and facts (Strand 2)? And what aspects of these programs are associated with participation in the activities of science (Strand 5)? What would programs look like that support the other strands? While looking at just a pair of studies about two programs is far from a sufficient basis for conclusive observations, we use this pair of studies to explore questions that the field may wish to take up. We also do so with full knowledge that the programs in question may support additional learning outcomes that were not reported. We urge readers to keep this in mind. One obvious difference between the two programs is that one is ex- plicitly linked to environmental stewardship, and the other is more closely associated with a basic scientific mission of documenting animal behavior. These differences in primary goal may impact who chooses to participate in the programs, as well as the particular skills and knowledge they develop through participation. However, understanding how the nature of the task relates to participation and how participation relates to specific learning outcomes will require considerably more research. Health Education Another group of studies examines adult programs that relate specifically to managing human health. These programs typically focus on improving
Programs for Young and Old 193 patientsâ understanding of human health (Strand 2) and can influence their attitudes toward science (Strand 6). A handful of studies examine informal support networks for individuals diagnosed with medical conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (Pfohl, 1997) and diabetes (Gillard et al., 2004) and others related to such practices as breastfeeding (Abbott, Renfrew, and McFadden, 2006; Lottero-Perdue, 2008). Informal health programs are typically organized and administered by health care agencies and serve as a way to extend the impact of medical professionals through discussion groups, lectures, and distribution of relevant literature. For example, Pfohl (1997) reports on a program that prepares multiple sclerosis patients for treatment. The program is designed to be relaxed and enjoyable but also technically valuable for the administration of medication and management of side effects. Patients whose treatment re- quires regular injections, for example, are given anatomy lessons (Strand 2). To bolster learning and ease anxiety that may be associated with feelings of isolation, groups of patients convene to share stories about their illness and treatment. The few studies assessing informal health programs that the committee was able to identify focused on issues other than participant learning. The studies we identified have focused on measuring levels of participation of health care professionals, identifying sustainability factors (Abbott et al., 2006), building cases of innovative practices in health care (Pfohl, 1997), and examining how broader social phenomena, such as biases and attitudes toward science (Strand 4), mediate the impact of programs for informal health education (Lottero-Perdue, 2008). Gillard and colleagues (2004), however, did examine participantsâ behav- ioral outcomes in a pilot study of screening clinics designed to detect and treat diabetes-related eye disease. During three annual visits to the clinic, patients received a physical examination and diabetes screening, engaged in unstructured discussions about diabetes and treatments with other patients and a diabetes expert, had access to pamphlets on diabetes and eye care, and were able to discuss the results of their examination with a health pro- fessional. Patients received a letter that included their test results and the implications of their results in the mail 30 days after their visit. Self-reported management of glucose levels from the first to the third clinic visit were used to determine whether changes in self-management behavior resulted from participation. The researchers found significant and desirable changes in self-management in terms of insulin use and self-monitoring of glucose. In this pilot study, the researchers reached no specific conclusions about the qualities of the experience that led to behavioral change, nor did they track participantsâ ideas or attitudes about particular concepts or practices. â A related body of work examining the social marketing of health practices in international development is discussed in Chapter 8.
194 Learning Science in Informal Environments Given the positive health behavior outcomes, however, they did urge health practitioners to view diabetes patientsâ learning as âpart of every diabetes care encounterâ (p. 42). Programs for Science Teachers As with adult learners facing a health issue, science teachers constitute a particular adult group with a great need to learn many aspects of science (National Research Council, 2007). Teacher professional development has been an area of significant growth over the past several decades. Program activity, interest among education leaders, and research on teacher profes- sional development have grown in concert with the standards-based reform movement. Science has received considerable attention as several major school reform initiatives funded through the NSF, including the state, local, and urban and rural systemic initiatives, have emphasized teacher profes- sional development in order to address teachersâ knowledge of and comfort with science and appropriate pedagogy. Institutions that support science learning in informal settings have been identified as critical participants in this effort, premised on the notion that their emphasis on phenomena-rich, learner-driven interactions with science resonates with the notion of inquiry underlying K-12 science education reform. Although many institutions have long-standing professional development programs for science teachers, until recently their role in teacher profes- sional development has been relatively undocumented. Just a decade ago, a well-known national study described these institutions as an âinvisible infrastructureâ of science education supporting K-12, yet it did not include data on teacher professional development (Inverness Research Associates, 1996). However, researchers from the Center for Informal Learning and Schools recently attempted to document teacher professional development efforts in these institutions in a study describing the scale and qualities of these programs (Phillips, Finkelstein, and Wever-Frerichs, 2007). The study was designed to answer two questions: 1. What are the design features of teacher professional development based in informal science institutions? 2. what extent do teacher professional development programs based To in informal science institutions integrate particular aspects that are known from research to produce measurable effects on teacher practice? Phillips and colleagues mailed a survey to specific individuals in 305 institu- tions, including 279 who had previously responded to a survey indicating that they provided teacher professional development programs, as well as to individuals from an additional 26 institutions known to offer programs. The
Programs for Young and Old 195 survey asked respondents to characterize their programs and the educational credentials of the staff and describe the unique features of their program or what their programs âprovide for teachers that other programs were unable or unlikely to provide.â With a relatively low response rate (28 percent) for the 305 mailed sur- veys, the study reports that these institutions are devoting considerable energy to teacher professional development and that their programs are focused on supporting teachers to learn activities they can use in their classrooms, as well as how to integrate their institution's resources into their curriculum. How these offerings influence teacher knowledge and practice is yet unknown. The committee also reviewed two case studies of in-service teacher prepa- ration programs that integrate informal experiences (Anderson, Lawson, and Mayer-Smith, 2006; Zinicola and Delvin-Scherer, 2001). In these programs, teachers may learn content and how to teach it, as well as how to identify and create curriculum materials, and organize and manage students and instruc- tion in their particular subject. They may explore new epistemologies and different ways of personally connecting with science. Through relationships built during the programs they also begin to build a network to nurture their own ongoing professional education. Anderson and colleagues describe an aquarium-based preservice teacher program designed to wrap around a school-based teaching practicum. Pre- service teachers participated in a three-day orientation to the educational programs of the aquarium, its student-centered, hands-on pedagogy, and the institutionâs educational goals, described as âdeveloping inspiration, curios- ity and marine stewardship . . . the importance of ecosystems; promoting awareness of the historical and economic aspects of the fishing industry . . . knowledge of (local) marine invertebratesâ (Anderson, Lawson, and Mayer-Smith, 2006, p. 344). Following the orientation, they spent 10 weeks in a school-based assignment, after which they returned to the aquarium to work in the educational programs under the tutelage of aquarium staff for three weeks. Anderson and colleagues conducted two focus groups with the teachers, analyzed reflective essays they wrote during the semester, and conducted ethnographic observations at the aquarium. They drew conclusions about areas of impact primarily based on teachersâ reflections on their experiences. These included broadening teachersâ sense of education and enhancing their understanding of educational theory, improving their classroom skills, enhancing their sense of autonomy and self-efficacy, strengthening their commitment to collaborative work, and helping them recognize the power of hands-on experiences in learning science (Anderson, Lawson, and Mayer- Smith, 2006, p. 350). While based primarily on self-report data from a single case, the results suggest this is a promising approach to integrating teacher education and informal educational institutions; clearly, further research and development are needed.
196 Learning Science in Informal Environments PROGRAMS FOR OLDER ADULTS Older adults are a unique population to which informal institutions are increasingly attending. Their abilities, needs, and interestsâlike those of other learnersârequire special attention in order to create programs that serve them. Although there have been few studies of older adult science learners in informal settings, a review of the general literature on learning in older adults is useful for understanding what issues in science learning might be best explored. Like other populations and groups (discussed in Chapter 7), older adults are often misunderstood. One aspect of older learners that gets little attention, but which is especially important for thinking about educational programming in informal environments, is their extensive experience base and knowledge. Older adults have a long history of family life, occupational experiences, and leisurely pursuits. In contrast to children, who are âuniversal novicesâ (Brown and DeLoache, 1978), older adults draw on decades of experience. They have rich histories and knowledge that they can elaborate on and from which they can draw analogies to access new concepts and insights. Older adults can also be stereotyped as suffering from memory decline and other aspects of mental slowing, and this tends to lead to an erroneous assumption that they lack ability. Such stereotyped views are often conveyed and upheld broadly, including by older adults themselves (Parr and Siegert, 1993; Ryan, 1992). Craik and Salthouse (2000) have reviewed the literature and report that older adults do face a steady loss in what is called fluid in- telligence or processing capacity. This decline can adversely affect the per- formance of everyday tasks and learning through a weakened capacity for attention (Salthouse, 1996), processing speed (Madden, 2001), and various types of memory performance (BÃ¤ckman, Small, and Wahlin, 2001). Because older adults often also face declines in hearing, vision, and motor control, these deficits in fluid intelligence can appear exaggerated. Studies by McCoy et al. (2005) concluded that the extra effort expended by a hearing-impaired listener in order to successfully perform a task comes at the cost of processing resources that would otherwise be directed at memory encoding. Studies of declines in fluid intelligence on computer use in older adults indicate that older adults make more errors and perform at a lower level than younger people on a variety of common tasks (Charness, Schumann, and Boritz, 1992; Czaja, 2001; Czaja and Sharit, 1993; Echt, Morrell, and Park, 1998). In addition, they demonstrate a relative difficulty with editing out unnecessary information (Rogers and Fisk, 2001). As the baby boom gen- eration ages, its familiarity with computers and the web will increase, and the majority of boomers in the United States will use the web on a regular basis (Czaja et al., 2006). Website designers and web-assisted programmers who serve these aging populations should strongly consider these findings and make adjustments.
Programs for Young and Old 197 Not all human functions decline with age. The discovery that humans continue to generate new neurons throughout life in the hippocampal region and that new neuronal connections are constantly being formed in response to life experience should help reshape thinking on lifelong learning (McKhann and Albert, 2002). Knowledge of general facts and information about the world (crystallized intelligence) does not change with age, and experience and life skills lead to a more comprehensive understanding of the world (Baltes, 1987; Beier and Ackerman, 2005; Heckhausen, 2005; Schaie, 2005). Self-worth, autonomy, and control over emotions increase or remain stable with age (Brandstadter, Rothermund, and Schmitz, 1998; Sheldon, Houser- Marko, and Kasser, 2006). Studies indicate stabilized limbic and autonomic nervous system activity in older adults (Lawton, Kleban, and Dean, 1993; Lawton, Kleban, Rajagopal, and Dean, 1992; Levenson, Carstensen, Friesen, and Ekman, 1991). There is evidence to suggest that older adults regulate negative emotions better than young adults and experience positive emotions with similar in- tensity and frequency (Carstensen, Pasupathi, Mayr, and Nesselroade, 2000). Mather and colleagues (2004) showed that older peopleâs memory for positive imagery was strikingly better than for neutral or negative images. Functional MRI data indicate that amygdala activation increased only in response to posi- tive stimuli (Lindberg, Carstensen, and Carstensen, 2007). Carstensen and her colleagues have developed a socioemotional selectivity theory that suggests that older adults experience an improved sense of well-being by pursuing experiences that are meaningful and are tied to emotional information. Benbow (2002) produced a useful list of implications for teaching to support effective learning by older adults: â¢ Instruction must respond to the experience, skills, and understanding of the big picture that adults bring to the learning environment. It may also require time spent correcting preexisting misunderstandings. â¢ Instruction should include how older learners can encode information and new processes to stimulate recall. â¢ Because stereotypes about memory loss can impact the ability to learn, instruction should be directed to reinforce the belief that people can remember and should be strengthened by practice opportunities. â¢ As people age, there is an increased interest in connecting learning to an impact on society. Instruction should therefore be designed to relate to both simple and complex situations in real life. â¢ Instruction should build on the strong emotional bonds toward people, objects, and beliefs that develop as people age. Jolly (2002) reminds the informal science education community that it must make a bid to educate the large group of older adults who will begin to avail themselves of opportunities in museums and science centers between
198 Learning Science in Informal Environments 2010 and 2030 by developing programs that result in âsustainable diversity.â This will require a deep integration of policies and practices that incorporate diversity into institutional frameworks. He enumerates some important goals for consideration by the community: â¢ Building boards of trustees and hiring staff that can represent the ap- propriate perspectives of the aging community. â¢ Addressing issues of age-related disabilities in all program design (i.e., vision, hearing, mobility, and fine motor coordination). Pro- grams resulting from this process will end up appealing to learners of every age. â¢ Producing more on-the-go and virtual programming that can travel to populations that cannot come to museums and science centers. â¢ Increasing collaboration between the informal science community and the local network of aging services. This will foster the development of programming tailored to the culture of the older adults in the area and result in incorporation of experiences that increase trust and respect from them. â¢ Incorporating assistive technology and equal access to all possible venues, including field sites, to increase participation by adults with age-related disabilities. Although there is scant empirical analysis of programs designed for older science learners, several driving propositions derived from practice, basic human development research, and several current programs instantiate (to varying degrees) these principles. Although untested, the following practices are worthy of further development and empirical scrutiny: â¢ Develop and foster dialogue and partnerships with local and area networks of aging services. â¢ Incorporate representation from this community in program and exhibit design. â¢ Use the principles of universal instructional design in exhibit and program materials. â¢ Incorporate findings about the adult learner in program design. â¢ Seek funding for assistive technology to support learning. â¢ Design and structure outcomes and evaluations that will provide data to inform the informal science community. Some programs designed for older adults are taking first steps toward addressing these concerns. We mention two of these here.
Programs for Young and Old 199 Explora Explora, a museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico, runs a science club for 30 members, ages 54 to 101, at the Laguna Pueblo. The club is part of an outreach exploration program offered at several senior, assisted-living, and nursing care centers. Explora has produced a guide containing 44 sci- ence, technology, and art programs for middle-aged and older adults. They have hosted adults-only nights for people 18 and older and altered space to include ample seating, wheelchair access, assistive technology, and modified materials. Older adults from all local communities are included in program design, and Explora hires seniors as educators in the programs and on the museum floor (Leigh, 2007). Meadowlands Environment Center Project SEE (Senior Environmental Experiences), at the Ramapo College of New Jersey, is supported by a grant from NSF and represents a partner- ship between the Meadowlands Environment Center, Ramapo College, and regional aging community services, including the Bergen County Division of Senior Services. The project is using interactive videoconferencing technology to educate and enhance science learning among senior citizens in assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and senior community centers in the Mead- owlands District of New Jersey and in facilities in the northern area of the state. Participants gather information and take part in an ongoing dialogue with environmental scientists. SEE provides videoconferencing equipment, staff to set up and take down the technology and conduct all program activi- ties, and pre- and post-conference materials. CONCLUSION The potential of programs for science learning is great, given the broader population patterns in society. Two demographic issues are relevant to sci- ence learning programs. One is a vast demand and infrastructure for quality programs for children and youth in out-of-school time. The other is the ag- ing of the baby boom generation. These demographic issues warrant careful consideration. To understand the full potential of out-of-school programs to function as a large-scale delivery system for science learning outside schools, tools and resources are needed to that end, and their development would benefit from empirical research. As we have observed one of the limitations in this area of inquiry is that the literature is primarily made up of evaluations, which are not necessarily built upon a peer reviewed body of evidence and linked to other inquiries. It would be constructive to integrate findings from across
200 Learning Science in Informal Environments studies of science learning and perhaps with the broader evidence base on non-science-specific out-of-school and adult programs. There is also a specific need for examination of the type of science learning occurring in programs for older adults. These learners will require special accommodations to serve their science interests and needs, and it will be necessary to plan learning experiences that are accessible to them. Developing and improving programs for older learners will require substantial growth in research. Currently the knowledge base consists of general cogni- tive and developmental research and descriptions of programs designed for older learners. In a broad sense, adults of all ages need to understand that the science learning resources are intended to serve them, not just children. There is evidence that programs can result in scientific learning and un- derstanding across the strands. For the types of programs we reviewed, we found science-specific learning outcomes for school-age participants and a few studies on adults. However, there is no clear, organized and synthesized body of knowledge on science-specific program effects or on qualities of effective programs for science learning. In this chapter we have begun to organize some of the relevant studies. There may be more evaluation reports that examine science-specific outcomes than we reviewed in this chapter. It would be helpful to further integrate the literature in future research. In the long run, identifying a set of best practices that can be applied across programs would also be beneficial. This task would involve a complex set of issues: curricular choices, staff training, management issues, space, and many others. Given the potential to vastly increase the participation of children, youth, and adults in these programs, it seems a worthwhile investment. Finally, we urge the field to attend carefully to the goals and measures used in program development and evaluation, drawing and building on the strands as an important resource. Identification of goals can make it possible for staff, participants, and evaluators to approach their experiences and work with greater focus and can facilitate efforts to build strong empirical bases for theory and practice. REFERENCES Abbott, S., Renfrew, M.J., and McFadden A. (2006). âInformalâ learning to support breastfeeding: Mapping local problems and opportunities. MIRU No: 2006.28. Maternal and Child Nutrition, 2 (4), 232-238. Afterschool Alliance. (2008). 21st century learning centers providing supports to com- munities nationwide. Available: http://www.afterschoolalliance.org/researchFact Sheets.cfm [accessed October 2008]. Albright, L. (2006). Summative evaluation: Bringing CoCoRaHS to the central great plains. Colorado State University. Available: http://www.informalscience.org/ evaluation/show/89 [accessed October 2008].
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