The Year in Informal Science Education: Milestones in STEM Learning from 2014

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December 30th, 2014

We witnessed a diversity of STEM learning milestones in 2014, from the White House Maker Faire to the Mechelen Declaration in Belgium. Here are some moments from a productive, high-profile year for informal science education:

Announcement of Science Learning+:

Science Learning+ is an international funding partnership between the US and UK to strengthen research and practice connections and to improve the knowledge base for informal STEM learning. The first round of awards was announced on December 2, 2014.

Citizen Science Association launched:

The newly formed Citizen Science Association is a community of practice for the field of public participation in scientific research that evolved from conversations at the 2012 Public Participation in Scientific Research Conference in Portland, Oregon. It will have its first conference in February 2015 just prior to the AAAS in San Jose, California..

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey:

Building on the legacy of Carl Sagan’s original Cosmos: A Personal Voyage program, host Neil deGrasse Tyson collaborated with producers Anne Druyan and Seth MacFarlane to create the 13-part series which used new cutting edge technologies in scientific storytelling. It was the most-watched series ever for the National Geographic Channel, engaging 135 million people in 180 countries — including 45 million in the U.S.— with a variety of television, video and web platforms.

Sunsetting of the Coalition for Science After School:

After more than a decade contributing richly to the field, the Coalition for Science After School (CSAS) concluded operations and passed the torch to partners, collaborators and stakeholders who committed to building on its legacy.

White House Maker Faire:

President Obama hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire on June 18, 2014. The event featured makers, innovators, and entrepreneurs of all ages who use cutting-edge tools to bring their ideas to life.

Report on STEM Learning is Everywhere:

This report is the product of a convocation which brought together representatives from the formal, afterschool, and informal education sectors to discuss and foster expanding ecosystems of STEM learning opportunities for children in elementary and middle school.

Kevin Delaney of Arkansas’ Museum of Discovery on The Tonight Show:

Director of Visitor Experience Kevin Delaney appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, performing live demonstrations of chemical reactions and the properties of various gasses.

New NSF Report on Broader Impacts for STEM Research:

In a new report, the NSF highlights how its diverse portfolio of awards contribute to STEM workforce development, broaden participation in science, engage a wide public audience in scientific issues and questions, and improve lives.

Mechelen Declaration at Science Centre World Summit:

The 2014 Science Centre World Summit in Belgium resulted in the Mechelen Declaration, an action plan in which science centers worldwide and their partners commit to concrete actions for the enhancement of public engagement with science to address global challenges.

Informal Learning Cultivates Kids Interest in STEM:

This blog post from Scientific American explores the way that informal experiences engage children’s natural curiosity and problem solving abilities. It provides examples that demonstrate how exploration and play can stimulate learning.

Alan Friedman

STEM education writ large, both formal and informal, lost a giant in the field this year with the passing of Dr. Alan J. Friedman. An inspiring and influential leader and thinker best known for directing the New York Hall of Science from 1984 to 2006, Alan also wrote reflective pieces like this one in which he demonstrates the power of informal learning by example.