Making the Argument for Learning Science in Informal Environments
Demonstrating evidence of learning is becoming critical for museums in securing funding. Yet most evaluation measures do not reflect what goes on in informal environments. The National Academy’s recently summarized research on informal science learning, helping museum professionals make the case for programs. We will review that report (Martin, Arizona Science Center, was a co-author); findings from a national staff development project headed by the Phoenix Zoo (Hebert); and, findings from a visitor survey about conservation learning, conducted at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (Colodner).
The report is important because it broadens the definition of science learning to include motivation, interest, and identity. The Phoenix Zoo project looked at how different institutions supported staff to integrate mathematics into interpretation and how differences in motivation for participating in training influenced staff learning. The Desert Museum conducted a survey on learning about conservation through interactions with docents, looking at changes in visitor knowledge and intentions. Their results allowed them to reflect on the types of interactions they are facilitating.
Discussion will highlight whether the ideas apply to learning in other kinds of museums. Naylor (Arizona Department of Education) represents the stakeholder voice, justifying field trips and other informal programs as valid educational experiences.
Chair: Mary Lou Naylor, Education Program Specialist, Arizona Department of Education
Panelists: Laura Martin, Director of Science Interpretation, Arizona Science Center; Gabrielle Hebert, Director of Visitor Experiences, The Phoenix Zoo; Debra Colodner, Director of Education, Arizona Sonora Desert Museum