Philadelphia Informal Science Education Collaborative (PISEC): Family Science Learning Project

July 1st, 1994 - December 31st, 1998 | PROJECT

The Family Science Learning Project is comprised of a research study and subsequent program development designed to fundamentally improve family science learning in museums. The endeavor will be carried out in the Philadelphia area by PISEC, a partnership of The Academy of Natural Sciences, The Franklin Institute, the Thomas H. Kean New Jersey State Aquarium at Camden and the Philadelphia Zoo, joined for this project by the University of the Arts. To achieve the goal of fostering science literacy by encouraging families to engage in successful learning strategies while visiting science museums, PISEC has identified the following objectives for the project: - To increase understanding of the processes and potential of science museum-based family learning. - To apply this understanding to the development and implementation of effective program and exhibit enhancements in four science museums. - To involve existing staff so that evaluation and research become an ongoing component of program and exhibit development in the participating museums. - To utilize a multi-institution team approach designed to maximize impact, be cost-effective and be replicable in other regions across the country. The project has three phases. First, a research study using ethnographic data collection and focus groups will be conducted at the participating museums. This study will lead to the formulation of a set of criteria for successful family science learning and hypotheses about what is needed to facilitate this behavior. Second, utilizing these findings, the four institutions will develop four distinct programs and/or exhibit enhancements designed to foster positive family learning experiences. Formative evaluation and inter-museum collaborative will be integral parts of this process. Finally, the summative findings of the individual efforts will be compared to look for constants in successful programming across the sites. Results will be assembled in a handbook which will be widely disseminated to the field. In carrying out this study, the project will fill in the body of existing museum-based family learning research. The knowledge gained will give science museum professionals a new set of tools which can be used to increase the frequency of positive learning experiences in their facilities, and to broaden the diversity of visiting families as well. Because the subject matter under investigation represents a wide range of scientific disciplines, the results of the projects should prove applicable to many different types of informal science learning environments, including science centers, natural history museums, zoos, aquariums and botanic gardens. The collaborative nature of the project will serve as a model for similar partnerships among cultural institutions and universities in other large metropolitan areas.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

Working Together: Museums and Community Partners
Gender Roles in Science Museum Learning
PISEC: Philadelphia/Camden Informal Science Education Collaborative presentation

Team Members

Minda Borun, Principal Investigator, Franklin Institute Science Museum
Jane Horwitz, Co-Principal Investigator, Franklin Institute Science Museum
James McGonigle, Co-Principal Investigator, University of Pennsylvania
Kathleen Wagner, Co-Principal Investigator, New Jersey Academy for Aquatic Sciences
Julie Johnson, Co-Principal Investigator, New Jersey Academy for Aquatic Sciences


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 9355504
Funding Amount: 616248


Audience: Evaluators | Families | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Education and learning science | General STEM
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Aquarium and Zoo Exhibits | Exhibitions | Museum and Science Center Exhibits | Museum and Science Center Programs | Park | Outdoor | Garden Programs | Parks | Outdoor | Garden Exhibits | Public Programs