Science-learning outside the classroom

iStock_000033068242SmallOne of the best ways to teach students science may be to take them out of the classroom into more informal environments, according to a 352-page report by the National Research Council (Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits) recently featured on the Center for Instruction website

Motivating students to engage in scientific inquiry may be a struggle in class, but if students are walking in the park, watching a sunrise, visiting a science center, zoo, or aquarium, an attitude of scientific inquiry often emerges naturally, according to the report.

Science-learning experiences in informal environments are typically characterized as learner-motivated, guided by learner interests, voluntary, personal, ongoing, contextually relevant, collaborative, nonlinear, and open-ended, according to the report. Informal science learning experiences are believed to lead to further inquiry, enjoyment, and a sense that science learning can be personally relevant and rewarding.

The National Research Council divides informal environments into 2 major classes, everyday and family settings and designed environments such as museums and environmental services exhibits for example.

“We propose a ‘strands of science learning’ framework that articulates science-specific capabilities supported by informal environments,” wrote the panel of experts that authored the report.

Sections of the document are available online free at There is a charge for a PDF file download or a hard copy.

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