Posts Tagged ‘science exhibits’

Creating Science Whizzes

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Good news for public gardens, zoos, and other places where visitors engage in “informal learning” about science. (For those new to the jargon, informal in this context basically means outside the classroom.) According to a new report sponsored by the National Science Foundation, “there is abundant evidence that these experiences contribute to people’s knowledge and interest in science.” What’s more, “they may also support academic gains for young people from groups historically underrepresented in science,” like minorities and women.

The report has some useful recommendations for people who create exhibits and other informal science programs: The exhibits should be interactive and designed with specific learning goals in mind. They should encourage visitors to relate what they have learned to their prior experiences and interests, and when possible the exhibits should be rooted in scientific problems, ideas, and activities that are meaningful to their communities.

Professionals who evaluate informal science programs for a living will be pleased to hear that there are some useful ways to measure “outcomes” (more jargon, meaning  ways to assess how well people have learned the science lessons the exhibits are intended to teach). But, sorry, to learn what these are, you have to shell out the $42.26 for the report.

You’d think that studies paid for by our tax dollars would be available for free on the internet. But I guess that kind of learning is a bit too informal for the NSF.