Governors Urged to Tap Into “Informal” Science Education

Via Education Week, a new report from the National Governors Association identifying  “informal science education” (i.e., science learning outside the classroom) as a frequently overlooked vehicle for helping states advance their STEM goals.

The [National Governors Association] document urges governors to “explicitly” include informal science education on their action agenda to improve STEM learning among young people and have representatives from informal science institutions (such as museums and zoos) be a part of state STEM advisory councils. […]

Opportunities for such “informal” learning come through a variety of venues and activities, such as science centers and museums, zoos, robotics and rocketry clubs, online games, and science competitions, to name a few. […]

The NGA issue brief suggests that “informal science offers states a powerful, low-cost way to help achieve the goals of an overall STEM strategy.” It notes that most quality programs “involve little if any direct state funding and do not compete with other state education dollars or classroom time.” […]

[A] key challenge is that many states fail to recognize and promote the role informal science learning activities can play in “buttressing” other state activities in STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“Thus, the state may be adopting more rigorous math and science standards, and providing more rigorous preparation for STEM students, while not taking full advantage of after-school programs or teacher professional-development opportunities provided through informal science institutions,” the report says. “As a result, school districts engage with the informal science community in a patchwork fashion, with robust activities in some areas and none in others.”

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