Monday, April 4, 2011

Learning Science in Informal Environments

By Sam Piha

There is a growing interest in increasing young people's exposure to science - particularly since much of the hands-on science time has been eliminated from our public schools. Afterschool programs that offer project-based science activities are well aligned with the LIA learning principles.

Learning Science in Informal Environments, authored and published by the National Academy of Sciences, "draws together disparate literatures, synthesizes the state of knowledge, and articulates a common framework for the next generation of research on learning science in informal environments across a life span. Contributors include recognized experts in a range of disciplines--research and evaluation, exhibit designers, program developers, and educators. They also have experience in a range of settings--museums, after-school programs, science and technology centers, media enterprises, aquariums, zoos, state parks, and botanical gardens."

We believe that Learning Science in Informal Environments is an invaluable guide for afterschool program leaders, community-based organizations, and those interested in promoting K-12 science education.

For an executive summary of this text and a peek at the full table of contents, click here.

"Out-of-school time (OST) programs that focus on girls’ involvement in STEM can play an essential role in improving female representation in these traditionally male-dominated fields. OST programs offer girls a non-threatening and non-academic environment for hands-on learning that is collaborative, informal, and personal. However, barriers to quality implementation and outcome-based evaluation present challenges for STEM programs serving girls." (STEM Out-of-School Time Programs for Girls, Harvard Family Research Project, 2011) To view this Research Update, highlighting findings from the evaluations and research studies in the OST Database that focus on STEM programs for girls, click here

For a recent article on the role of science learning outside of school, published in Education Week (April 4, 2011) click here

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