Science Learning: Understanding the value of informal science experiences

Science Learning: Understanding the value of informal science experiences

Author: Matthew Hickman – Wellcome Trust, United Kingdom

In 2014, Wellcome, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) launched the $12 million / £7.5 million Science Learning+ initiative. Science Learning+ seeks to make a transformational step to improve the knowledge base and practice of informal science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning (ISL), to better understand, strengthen, and coordinate STEM engagement and learning. One of the key aims of Science Learning+ is to help facilitate relationships between those who deliver STEM public programs and engagement activities (“practitioners”) and those who undertake research into those activities (“researchers”).

We initially funded 11 small-scale, ‘Planning Grant’ projects with the intent of helping the development of new ideas around improving our understanding of ISL and forging partnerships between researchers and practitioners, and US and UK/Irish organisations.

In 2017 we made larger Partnership Grant awards to five projects. Each project is a collaboration between researchers and practitioners and between organisations based in the US and the UK/Ireland. The projects are investigating a range of ISL experiences and their impacts, including:

  • youth educators in science visitor attractions
  • the role of embodied cognition in developing interactive science exhibits aimed at young children
  • different ways of engaging audiences via citizen science
    leveraging interest in other topics (like the arts) to build interest in science
  • how ISL experiences can help underrepresented youth to navigate STEM pathways.

These are all 3-5 year projects in their early stages and this presentation will be an opportunity to find out more about the projects and the work of Wellcome, NSF and ESRC in supporting understanding about ISL.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Visual talk
Theme: Science
Area of interest: Building a theoretical basis for science communication