Kelly Yang, Cornell Senior, Researches Early Childhood Learning

Visitors at the Sciencenter splash around in a Curiosity Corner exhibit-an area specially designed for children 4 years and younger. This will be one of the water exhibits featuring the new signage. Photo by Sciencenter.

Visitors at the Sciencenter splash around in a Curiosity Corner exhibit-an area specially designed for children 4 years and younger. This will be one of the water exhibits featuring the new signage. Photo by Sciencenter.

How and when we learn is not determined by a class schedule. With most of our lives spent outside of a classroom, more attention should be paid to the learning that takes place in the “real world.”

Kelly Yang, a senior majoring in human development and minoring in biological sciences at Cornell University, is doing just that. Kelly has been a research assistant in Cornell’s Early Childhood Cognition Lab (ECC Lab), directed by Dr. Tamar Kushnir, since her freshman year.

ECC Lab researchers design toys, games, and stories to study how children learn. These tools are implemented in the lab, at local schools, and at informal science education institutions like the Sciencenter.

Cornell’s ECC Lab and the Sciencenter are partnering to research early childhood development and how caregivers interact with children during the learning process. The partnership aims to ultimately create and provide caregivers with the tools needed to maximize their child’s learning.

The partnership’s SENCER-ISE-funded research began with Dr. Kushnir’s Spring 2014 Concepts and Theories in Childhood course, in which, students worked with Sciencenter director of education, Michelle Kortenaar, and museum staff to conduct research on how children interact with caregivers and museum exhibits.

The Concepts and Theories course stood out among Kelly’s other courses because it provided her with the opportunity to actually apply her knowledge and course work in the field. Kelly says she “thinks it’s great for undergraduates; especially juniors and seniors, to get a feel for how their academic backgrounds will come into play in their future jobs and careers.”

Recently, Kelly took the time to reflect on her work the the ECC Lab and the Sciencenter:

A 5-year-old boy stands next to me and together we gaze at some red and white, Frisbee- and spherically-shaped objects. We are at the Sciencenter, looking at an exhibit about blood. I ask, “What is that stuff?”

With his five-year-old lisp, he responds matter-of-factly,“They’re red and white blood cells.”

“What do they do?”

“The white blood cells, they protect your body. And the red ones, they carry oxygen.”

“Oh cool…what else is in the blood?”

“T Cells and B Cells. They fight the bad guys. Like ninjas!”

As a research assistant in Cornell’s Early Childhood Cognition Lab, I am repeatedly amazed how well-equipped we are to learn from a young age. The five-year-old boy in the anecdote above knew middle school-level biology simply from being around his dad, who is a scientist at Cornell. In the Lab, we examine children’s learning and thinking using activities and games specifically designed for a controlled lab setting. This summer, I worked at the Sciencenter, a hands-on museum in Ithaca, NY to develop a new project for the Lab. This project examines children’s learning in the organic and messy real world to see how they learn in informal learning environments.

It is understood in the field of developmental psychology that children use concepts and categories to make sense of the world around them. If an adult presents a child with a blue sphere and a red sphere and labels both with the word “ball”, a child can infer that “ball” refers to a category of objects that are round. To apply this idea in the real world, we are connecting several museum exhibits that share the concept of “water”.

Mariel Schneider, an Early Childhood Cognition Lab alumnus, began working on this project last summer. She focused on using signage to bring attention to the concept of water. This year, Dr. Tamar Kushnir’s class on Concepts and Theories in Childhood brainstormed to further Mariel’s work. As part of the class, students observed caregiver-child interactions at various exhibits that all shared the theme of water. The class collectively decided that the project was in need of an interactive component. Our idea was to use a scavenger hunt to highlight the water concept, and my goal for the summer was to create it.

While at the Sciencenter, I prototyped a number of activities and steps on the museum floor. I ultimately found that children enjoy doing crafts and having something to take home.  I created pocket-sized booklets for children to use in the scavenger hunt and take home afterwards. I also designed custom stampers to use for the scavenger hunt throughout the museum. In addition to working on the Lab’s project, I helped the Sciencenter’s education team run and assess early childhood programming, looking for ways to engage parents and caregivers in their children’s science learning. I also had the opportunity to lead a professional development workshop for Sciencenter staff and share my knowledge of current research in early childhood cognitive development.

This summer, the amount of creative freedom that the project allowed me helped me to grow in my learning and thinking. It was challenging and immensely rewarding to apply my knowledge outside of the classroom. My experiences at the Sciencenter are invaluable to my future career as a pediatrician because not only am I prepared to work with children and their parents, but also prepared to discuss relevant issues in the workplace.

Moving forward, I along with a team of other research assistants will be collecting data on the scavenger hunt game throughout the following semester. We hope to learn more about caregiver-child interactions and gain insight into concept formation in a museum setting. My summer at the Sciencenter was pivotal in laying the groundwork for this project and I am eager to see how the rest unfolds.

Through her research, Kelly has also observed the advantages of informal science education. Kelly had always appreciated informal science education institutions and environments, but she now has a “much deeper appreciation of all the careful thought and planning that goes into creating museum programs and exhibits.” She remarks that she’s always been “interested in education, but now informal education is even more appealing since there is so much room for creativity.”

Hamilton College and Green Science Policy Institute Welcome Hope and Oberlin Colleges to their SENCER-ISE Partnership!

Toxic Posters: The campus community is invited to a poster session in which students present the results from their analytical assessment of exposure to toxic chemicals from consumer products. Photo: Tim Elgren

Toxic Posters: The campus community is invited to a poster session in which students present the results from their analytical assessment of exposure to toxic chemicals from consumer products. Photo: Tim Elgren

This past spring, Dr. Tim Elgren, originally the SENCER-ISE Co-PI at Hamilton College, was appointed as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH. Dr. Elgren and his partner at the Green Science Policy Institute (GSP) in Berkeley, CA, Dr. Arlene Blum, saw Dr. Elgren’s new position as an opportunity to expand their existing partnership to include two new colleges.

Last academic year, Drs. Elgren and Blum, along with Ms. Avery Lindeman of GSP, built upon  Dr. Elgren’s existing Hamilton College Introduction to Chemistry course into a toxicology lab with elements of civic engagement to provide students with opportunities to share their research with the public.

The partners and SENCER-ISE staff are excited to expand the collaboration to include Hope and Oberlin Colleges.

Dr. Adam Van Wynsbergh, assistant professor of chemistry, is taking on the toxicology curriculum at Hamilton College, with Dr. Greg Rahn, instrumental specialist, contributing to the development and teaching of the labs.

Components of the toxicology lab developed by Hamilton College and GSP will be adapted by Dr. Graham Peaslee, professor of chemistry, to create a similar course at Hope College in Holland, MI.

Basic chemistry, such as chemical partitioning, is introduced early in the term to help students design strategies for separating toxins from various materials before quantification is possible. Photo: Karen Brewer

Basic chemistry, such as chemical partitioning, is introduced early in the term to help students design strategies for separating toxins from various materials before quantification is possible. Photo: Karen Brewer

Dr. Elgren will be teaching a version of the course at Oberlin College.

Drs. Blum, Elgren, VanWynsbergh, and Peaslee will also be collaborating to further refine and disseminate the toxicology-focused model for introductory chemistry students and the undergraduate curriculum.

Dr. Ellen Mappen, SENCER-ISE Project Director, knows how important institutional backing is for cross-sector partnerships. Dr. Mappen says, “It is imperative that these collaborations support the partner institutions’ missions and have support of the organizations. If they do not have this, the partnership will not survive a personnel change.” She adds, “We are so happy that the Hamilton College and Green Science Policy Institute’s partnership not only survived Dr. Elgren’s transition to Oberlin College, but has also expanded to include Hope and Oberlin Colleges.”

Innovative Pilot Study Seed Grant Awarded to SENCER-ISE Co-PIs

Graduate student from the Early Childhood Cognition Lab, Nadia Chernyak, conducts a study with child participant. Photo by Sciencenter.

Graduate student from the Early Childhood Cognition Lab, Nadia Chernyak, conducts a study with child participant. Photo by Sciencenter.

Dr. Tamar Kushnir, professor and Director of Cornell University’s Early Childhood Cognition Laboratory (ECCL), and Michelle Kortenaar, Director of Education at the Sciencenter, were recently awarded a 2014 Innovative Pilot Study seed grant from Cornell University’s Bronfenbrenner Center for Transitional Research (BCTR)

to implement their project The Science Word Scavenger Hunt: Design, Implementation, and Assessment of a Simple Interactive Museum Experience to Engage Young Children and Their Families in Science Learning.

The goal of the Innovative Pilot Study Program is to encourage shifting social and behavioral research into real-world practice and policy. The BCTR awards approximately four to five pilot grants a year for up to $12,000 each.

The Science World Scavenger Hunt is an extension of the work done by Dr. Kushnir and Ms. Kortenaar on their SENCER-ISE project Science from the Start: Engaging Researchers, Undergraduates and a Science Museum to Reach Early Learners and Set the Stage for STEM Learning.

In the Science from the Start project, Cornell University undergraduates in Dr. Kushnir’s Concepts and Theories in Childhood course study early childhood cognition, designprototype signage for Sciencenter exhibits (this past semester, these signs dealt with the concept of water), and observe visitor interaction with the signs and exhibits. To encourage visitors to engage more with the signage created through this project, a scavenger hunt with the theme of “water” is being introduced.

When making their visitors observations, the students took an unobtrusive “fly on the wall” approach. The BCTR grant provides the funds to allow formal data collection by ECCL researchers on how children and parents — some taking part in the scavenger hunt, others not — interact with each other and the exhibits. Researchers from the ECCL will videotape parent-child interactions at different exhibits throughout the Sciencenter and code the resulting data.

A National Science Foundation grant will be written for the summer of 2015 based on this pilot data.

As Dr. Kushnir and Ms. Kortenaar say in their grant proposal, researchers have studied the mechanisms of childhood learning in controlled laboratories, but little focus has been put on how learning takes place in real-world environments.

Ms. Kortenaar states, “By partnering with Cornell’s Early Childhood Cognition Lab, the Sciencenter seeks to enhance the early childhood experience at the museum and also to empower parents, educators, and other caregivers to take an active role in their children’s early learning. Through this partnership, we are succeeding on both counts.” She goes on to say, “Our youngest guests have a fun-filled learning experience, while their parents and caregivers are inspired to engage their children in ways that complement their children’s natural curiosity.”

Wildlife Mobile App Now Available for Download

Saint Mary’s College of California and the Lindsay Wildlife Museum have announced the launch of their wildlife education mobile app, which is now available for free download in the iTunes store!App_Slide_2

Saint Mary’s School of Science students developed the mobile app with the guidance of Lindsay Wildlife Museum staff. Read about the app’s development in their June 4th web post, and read Saint Mary’s College and the Lindsay Wildlife Museum’s full press release.

The Partners Prepare for Summer Programming

Stephanie Airoldi of the Connecticut Science Center works with adult visitors. Photo by the Connecticut Science Center.

Stephanie Airoldi of the Connecticut Science Center works with adult visitors. Photo by the Connecticut Science Center.

Dr. Rachel O’Neill of the University of Connecticut, Mr. Hank Gruner of the Connecticut Science Center, and their colleagues have been preparing for the Genome Ambassadors public programs that will take place at the Science Center over a five-week period beginning July 7, 2014.

The Genome Ambassadors programs will focus on conducting surveys and hands-on genomic- and genetics-related activities with families visiting the Science Center to gauge public awareness and understanding of the principles and concepts of the field. The information collected will be used to guide the design and development of a 2,500 square foot genomics installation that the Science Center is planning for the next few years.

In preparation for the public programs, the team conducted a literature search to define the key genomic principles for public understanding, built pubic assessment activities, and established a graduate student fellowship program, which supports two Ph.D. students in their training to undertake research and outreach activities in Genomics Literacy.

Local high school students, taking part in a six-week genomics program at the Science Center, will be working with a staff member to develop and test pilot genomics- and genetics-related activities for family audiences. These activities, along with the public assessment work that will be done by the University of Connecticut graduate students, will be implemented in the Science Center’s Health and Sports exhibit gallery.

This collaboration between the high school and graduate students is a recent development that came about in a planning meeting to further develop the program schedule and activities. Gruner noted that, “We like the tie between the summer genomics program for high school students and the SENCER-ISE graduate student project as it broadens the experience for all involved.”

The two groups of students will work together on the Science Center floor presenting activities to the public that embed the survey work with hands-on learning experiences. The opportunity to connect high school students with an interest in genomics-related careers with university graduate students studying genomics was too great an opportunity to miss and benefits both groups of students. Through this program, the high school students will engage with their “near peers”, get to explore career options in genomics and post-secondary education, build their confidence in working with the public, use the information gathering from the collected data to guide the development of the activities that will refined over the summer, gain content knowledge, and build a new awareness of the field of genomics. The graduate students benefit by enhancing their science communication and mentoring skills while guiding the high school students and interacting with the museum visitors.

SENCER-ISE Partner, Karen Tingley, Directs “Building Strong Community Networks”

2013-10-30-16-49-03Karen Tingley, Co-PI from the Wildlife Conservation Society, also served as the Building Strong Community Networks (BSCN) Project Director.

BSCN was a two-year action research project, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and The Rockefeller Foundation, which focused on identifying and creatively responding to Brooklyn’s community needs through the collaborative efforts of six Heart of Brooklyn cultural institutions, including the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Public Library, Prospect Park, and the Prospect Park Zoo.

The project resulted in a number of successful community initiatives, as well as a free online workbook.

The “Project True” partnership between the Wildlife Conservation Society and Fordham University provided 25 New York City high school students with ten-week-long research internships to study either arthropod or bird diversity in an urban environment. The students produced a blog and also shared their research projects among themselves, with their school principals, family members, and others.

“Karen’s SENCER-ISE work, along with that of Amy Tuinaga of Fordham, and Karen’s work on the BSCN demonstrate the value of collaborative educational and cultural partnerships in addressing community or civic needs,” says Ellen Mappen, SENCER-ISE Project Director. She adds that “these efforts allow us to develop ‘new models to … generate greater access to information, or share resources,’ as a position paper retrievable on the BSCN website indicates.”

Visit the BSCN website to learn more about the project.

San Francisco Bay Area Wildlife Mobile App Arriving in June

App_Slide_2Saint Mary’s College of California and Lindsay Wildlife Museum partnered on an independent study research course offering at Saint Mary’s College that focused on the development of a mobile app about wildlife in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Saint Mary's College Students present their app design ideas to Lindsay Wildlife Museum Staff. Photo by Steve Bachofer

Saint Mary’s College Students present their app design ideas to Lindsay Wildlife Museum Staff. Photo by Steve Bachofer

Professor Steve Bachofer, Co-PI on the SENCER-ISE partnership says, “Saint Mary’s School of Science students and professors utilize their creativity and skills to develop the app which allows Bay Area residents to increase awareness of animal habitats and to protect local wildlife and this app represents first product of our partnership.”

The course was set up as if the students were part of a start-up company producing mobile apps for clients. The goal was for students to learn programming code and apply it to a real-world situation. Professor Weiwei Pan, instructor for the course says, “As a faculty member, you try to take a background roll when possible, to let the other team members actually do the work and develop their own ideas.”

Avalos.M_Quote2_SMCFor Lindsay Wildlife Museum, the goal of the mobile app is to engage local residents with their wild animal neighbors, and increase awareness about the museum. Lindsay Wildlife Museum developed and provided the content and images, as well as general direction and feedback regarding the style and use, but the creative direction of the mobile app can be attributed to the student programmers.

Michele Setter, Director of Animal Encounters/Interim Director, Wildlife Rehabilitation at Lindsay Wildlife Museum and Co-PI of the SENCER-ISE partnership, states, “This has been a very rewarding experience for me, both professionally and personally.” She does on to say, “I am very proud of the work done by the students – they really listened to their client, were very engaged in the project, and were a pleasure to work with. This is a great tool for our community to connect with our wild animal neighbors and we are very excited to share the app with the public.”

Duran.K_Quote_SMCThe mobile app was beta tested April 26-May 16 2014, and previewed publicly on May 31, 2014. It is currently in final review and should be available for download on iOS late June 2014.

Marco Avalos, a Saint Mary’s School of Science student, reflected on the experience, saying, “We were able to help each other in this app-building process. If one of us got stuck, another would step up and help us figure it out. It was a great learning experience.”

Watch a video about the making of that app and hear more from Michele Setter, professor Weiwei Pan, and Saint Mary’s School of Science students.

Communicating Climate Science to Gatekeepers in the Adirondacks

Rob Carr and Curt Stager with the Communicating Climate Science students. Photo by Rob Carr.

Rob Carr and Curt Stager with the Communicating Climate Science students. Photo by Rob Carr.

Paul Smith’s College’s new class offering, Communicating Climate Science, created in partnership with The Wild Center, completed its first semester in May 2014. The course, developed by Professor Curt Stager of Paul Smith’s College and Rob Carr of The Wild Center, not only teaches students about the effects of climate change on their local Adirondack region, it also provides them with the tools needed to effectively communicate this information to local “gatekeepers.”


Gatekeepers are people who, with current research-based information, can influence the public to make more informed choices based on the changes that are happening locally as a result of climate change.

The concept of “gatekeepers” was first developed by Demos, a think tank in Helsinki, Finland. The Wild Center connected with Demos through The Wild Center’s partnership with Hereka, a museum in Finland, which works with Demos to develop outreach programs. Recognizing the potential in applying this to a college course, Carr and Stager developed their SENCER-ISE project around the concept.

The course allowed students to explore concepts of climate science particularly related to the Adirondacks, and study interpretive educational methodologies to effectively communicate their research. The students also had the opportunity to Skype with Demos to learn more about the concept of the gatekeeper program, including its benefits and drawbacks, and tactics that have worked well in Finland.

During the course, students also prepared presentations for four different gatekeeper audiences that focused on how climate change has and will impact each group, and what they can do to spread the word to the public.

In a Paul Smith’s College press release about the course, Professor Stager said, “The point isn’t to indoctrinate people into a particular point of view or sow fear, but to empower people to make their own informed decisions about how to deal with changes that are already under way in the North Country.”

Gatekeeper audiences included a fish and game club in Saint Falls, NY, that was presented information on how climate change is closely tied to the hunting and fishing seasons; a group of local artists that learned about how regional climate change can be interpreted through paintings; a group of local musicians that explored to discuss climate change through songs, album art, and performances; and a group of Lyme disease researchers from the Trudeau Institute in Saranac Lake, NY which was presented with the impact that climate change has had on ticks that serve as vectors for Lyme disease.

The researchers were so impressed with a graph that the students created using Center for Disease Control data showing that cases of Lyme disease have increased over the last 10 years, that the researchers have used the graph in a multi-million dollar National Institute of Health grant application.

The local musicians and artists, and researchers were given their climate science presentations at SAM Fest (Science, Arts, and Music Festival), a one-day festival held on the Paul Smith’s campus. The festival and climate change presentations were also open to the public.

Rob Carr said about the SAM Fest presentations, “Half the class is about creating entertaining, dynamic, thematic, audience-relevant presentations that wouldn’t only be enjoyable for the audience that it was for, but also for the community members that were looking in. It worked out really nicely.”

An example of one of the student presentations on using music in interpret climate change can be found here.

In addition to developing and giving presentations, students were responsible for evaluating the effectiveness of their own presentation by creating their own goals and measureable objectives. The student groups also developed their own methods to measure those objectives, whether it was through evaluation, or with follow-up activities with their audience groups.

Deepening Understanding of Forest Health in Central New Jersey

By Drs. Jay Kelly and Nellie Tsipoura

The Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) Spring 2014 semester included a redesigned Environmental Field Studies Course taught by Dr. Jay Kelly, Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Science in the Department of Science and Engineering, with guest speakers Nellie Tsipoura, Senior Research Scientist, and Kelly Wenzel, Project Coordinator, at the New Jersey Audubon.

Student_Quote6Previous versions of the course focused on student-driven independent research projects and/or more structured modules, exposing students to the process of conducting scientific research through a variety of less directly related community-based field research and conservation or restoration projects. For example, community well water testing, superfund sites, amphibian road crossing surveys, and invasive and endangered species surveys.

Dr. Jay Kelly with RVCC students.

Dr. Jay Kelly with RVCC students.

The new version developed through SENCER-ISE funding helped focus and deepen the course content, providing a useful conceptual framework to integrate different course materials and an opportunity for students to participate in meaningful community-based research and outreach being conducted by NJ Audubon. In all, this exposed the students not only to the principles and practices of basic scientific research, but also to the relevance of research methods and results to solving real-world problems, and moral and civic values, roles, and responsibilities of science and scientists in matters of civic importance.


Students were introduced to basic ecological concepts related to forest structure and composition and how these can be applied to understanding and assessing forest health. Students conducted extensive field and library research on factors such as forest history, land use, invasive species, deer overabundance, endangered species, climate change, landscape context, public policy, and forest management.

Student_Quote4After personally delving into the causes and consequences of these factors, students engaged in the development of solutions to these problems, focusing on integrating invasive plant species into the citizen science training being conducted by NJ Audubon, as well as assessing the effectiveness of existing restoration efforts and forest management plans being applied to local forest preserves.

At the end of the semester, students and NJ Audubon staff conducted workshops for citizen science volunteers at the NJ Audubon. In preparation for these workshops, Kelly Wenzel met with the students and helped them understand how to create lesson plans for volunteers and brainstormed with them on a design for the field manual, which will be used to identify invasive plants. Dr. Tsipoura also spoke to Student_Quote7the class to explain the purposes of the citizen science project, what the students are expected to produce, and how to make the presentations tie in and flow with the rest of the workshop. The students also did a presentation in the class before the citizen presentation, in which they commented on each other’s presentations to strengthen their content.

RVCC students present a workshop on identifying invasive plant species to citizen scientists. Photo by Jay Kelly.

RVCC students present a workshop on identifying invasive plant species to citizen scientists. Photo by Jay Kelly.

During the workshops, citizen science volunteers were presented with background information on the citizen science at NJ Audubon and the collaboration between RVCC and NJ Audubon through the SENCER-ISE grant. Then they were introduced to the purposes of the project and the scientific and civic questions relating to forest health in New Jersey. This session was followed by training in bird and invasive plant identification. This is done in a classroom setting, where the citizen scientists were presented in learned in great detail about species identification with the aid of photos in a PowerPoint presentation, and in the case of birds an audio component with bird songs. The bird identification component was presented by NJ Audubon staff, while the invasive plant identification was presented by the RVCC students.

Finally, the last hour of the workshop was spent going through the protocols for data collection for birds and invasive plants. Since the Audubon uses rigorous scientific methodologies to collect data that can be used for conservation and management purposes, the speakers impressed upon the volunteers the importance of careful data collection and went into detail on what this involves.

Citizen scientists participate in a field research workshop at the NJ Audubon. Photo by Jay Kelly.

Citizen scientists participate in a field research workshop at the NJ Audubon. Photo by Jay Kelly.

Each citizen scientist received a packet with CDs of all the presentations and of bird songs, the protocols, any additional paper work, and the field manual that was developed by the RCVV students. These materials are also available online.

Each of these citizen science volunteers was assigned five to ten locations within a selected forest site and will conduct birds and/or invasive plant surveys and collect information on deer presence between late May and early July. Overall there are 375 locations throughout natural areas within the Raritan and Piedmont regions.

Once the citizen scientists complete their surveys, they will enter their data online and submit them to NJ Audubon.

In addition to reflections students- excerpts of which are included on this page, Dr. Kelly also conducted a quantitative pre- and post-assessment of student interest, concern, knowledge and engagement on issues related to forest health. The results found students to exhibit significant increase in each of these domains, averaging a 26% increase on scores (ranked from 1-5) on 16 questions overall.

John Falk Talks to New Mexico Informal Science Education Network

By Charlie Walter
Dr. John Falk joins twenty NM ISE Net members for a luncheon prior to his presentation. Photo by Charlie Walter.

Dr. John Falk joins twenty NM ISE Net members for a luncheon prior to his presentation. Photo by Charlie Walter.

On April 11, 2014, John Falk, Sea Grant Professor of Free-Choice Learning at Oregon State University and Director of the OSU Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning, spoke to the New Mexico Informal Science Education Network (NM ISE Net) as part of a SENCER-ISE funded initiative.  Dr. Falk presented an overview of what is currently known about when, why and where the public learns science, and shared the results from a variety of recent large-scale investigations of science learning to document the significant role that informal educational experiences have in building a scientifically-informed public.

During his presentation, Falk noted that collectively many factors – years of schooling, quantity of childhood free-choice learning experiences, work experiences, privilege and quantity of adult free-choice learning experiences – significantly contribute to adult science literacy.  His research results indicate a coefficient of determination (denoted R2). These factors are:

John Falk Speaks to seventy-five members of the informal science and higher education communities. Photo by Charlie Walter.

John Falk Speaks to seventy-five members of the informal science and higher education communities. Photo by Charlie Walter.

Schooling R2 = 17%

Childhood Free-Choice Learning R2 = 17%

Workplace R2 = 20%

Privilege R2 = 23%

Adult Free-Choice Learning R2 = 39%



Falk stated, “We need to broaden our mindset when we think of public education.  We should consider the whole ecosystem of learning including schools, museums, zoos, nature centers, state and national parks, television, after school programs and the internet.”

Seventy-five individuals ranging from museum directors, educators and board members, university faculty members and students, state park interpreters and a member of the state’s Public Education Department attended the program.  Twenty members of NM ISE Net shared information about their institutions and thoughts about the Network with Falk at a luncheon before the program.  Falk noted, “This network seems to be uniquely poised to make a real impact on statewide STEM learning.  Keep up the great work.”

Dr. John Falk joins twenty NM ISE Net members for a luncheon prior to his presentation. Photo by Charlie Walter.

Dr. John Falk joins twenty NM ISE Net members for a luncheon prior to his presentation. Photo by Charlie Walter.

NM ISE Network member, Gordon McDonough, from the Bradbury Science Museum stated, “As museum education practitioners, we spend so much of our time dealing with the demands of serving our audiences that we don’t often have time to wrestle with big ideas. John’s talk gave us the opportunity to step back from our day-to-day challenges and engage in the big questions about the value of museums and where we fit in the big picture of public education.”

Two additional national speakers will come to New Mexico as part of this SENCER-ISE project: James Bell, Director of the Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education and Mark St. John, President of Inverness Research Associates (dates have not been set for these talks yet).  The goal of these sessions is to build capacity of the network members though dialogue with national thought leaders in informal science and learning research.

To watch a recording of Dr. Falk’s April 11th presentation, click here.