Using Informal Explorations of Living Phenomena to Enhance Science Learning

September 15th, 2007 - June 16th, 2011 | PROJECT

In this project, the Education Development Center and Campbell-Kibbler Research Associates Inc., are researching the impact of a set of after-school biology materials on under-represented middle school youth at the Boston Nature Center and two University of New Hampshire 4H Clubs. In response to a general need in the field to examine the relationship between learning in informal science programs and learning in school, this project studies the potential of informal contexts to enhance student engagement in the phases of inquiry, giving special attention to the role of visual representations in the early stages of inquiry. The research identifies how visual representations are directly involved in the ability of young people to discern patterns and externalize their own thinking and how these two abilities impact their science confidence and basic knowledge of the biology content in the units. To identify the potential impact of this strategy on in school learning, the in school learning of participating youth is compared to a similar group of children who do not participate in the program. Secondarily the project identifies how the results of this research influence the work of after-school program developers' use of visual tools. The program goal is to provide a rich foundation of out of school experiences for young people upon which they can more readily grasp concepts that are also introduced in the school context. Deliverables include a peer reviewed research paper, two extended biology units using digital and hand made visual representations, and a manual for developing similar programs. The summative evaluation measures the impact of the deliverables on the professional field. The curriculum will be used at hundreds of after school programs and the manual and research paper will impact program developers field-wide by influencing future programs they develop.

Project Website(s)

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Project Products

Team Members

Bernard Zubrowski, Former Principal Investigator, Education Development Center
Bryan Wunar, Principal Investigator, Education Development Center
Patricia Campbell, Former Co-Principal Investigator, Campbell-Kibbler Research Associates Inc.
Kerry Ouellet, Editor, Education Development Center


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 0714703
Funding Amount: 1330772


Audience: Educators | Teachers | Evaluators | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Education and learning science | Life science | Nature of science
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Afterschool Programs | Public Programs