Monday, February 09, 2009

"Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits"

Philip Bell, Bruce Lewenstein, Andrew W. Shouse, and Michael A. Feder, Editors, Committee on Learning Science in Informal Environments, National Research Council, 2009.

Informal science is a burgeoning field that operates across a broad range of venues and envisages learning outcomes for individuals, schools, families, and society. The evidence base that describes informal science, its promise, and effects is informed by a range of disciplines and perspectives, including field-based research, visitor studies, and psychological and anthropological studies of learning.

Learning Science in Informal Environments 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.

Learning Science in Informal Environments is an invaluable guide for program and exhibit designers, evaluators, staff of science-rich informal learning institutions and community-based organizations, scientists interested in educational outreach, federal science agency education staff, and K-12 science educators.
Comment: Science changes so fast that science education in the best of cases should be continuing education. For those in developing countries, who generally learn little science in school, learning science out of school is a necessity.

It would be interesting to see a counterpart to this study that focuses on the ways poor people in poor countries learn about the physical and social worlds that they inhabit. I suspect that the pace of science learning should increase to meet a more rapidly changing social world, and that the old institutions should bend a lot. JAD

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