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 http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12190#toc There is a charge for a PDF file download or a hard copy.