An Informal Setting Experience: A Visit To The Zoological Gardens

6091 words - 25 pages

AbstractThere is an increasing amount of literature that attests to the power and influence of informal learning settings that can ignite the curiosity and interest in science for students of all ages. As researchers, scientists, and educators, the goals of taking our students to informal settings, such as museums, aquariums, nature centers, and zoos, should not only be to entice and expand their natural curiosity about the exhibits that they see and their world around them; but also to augment their formal science classroom learning. This article includes some of the research on informal learning settings to support the premise that such settings are useful in teaching science to today's ...view middle of the document...

According to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), "informal science education should complement, supplement, deepen, and enhance the classroom science studies and be a tool that serves as the basis for curriculum resources" (1998, p. 1). Other objectives of informal science learning experiences are to allow for another teaching method which takes into account the differences of students' learning styles, to impact the students' cognitive and social realms by presenting unique opportunities for other professionals and laypersons to share their time, viewpoints, and creative efforts with the students, and to provide chances to promote students' critical thinking and analytical abilities. In addition, informal science learning settings are valuable for teachers as a means to enhance their professional and personal development and their relationships with their students. As educators in today's ever-increasing technological society, we have ahead of us both a tremendous task and an opportunity to instill the value of such settings in the applications of science to our students. As teachers, our task is to motivate and maintain our students' interest in science by finding creative but applicable ways to undertake these objectives. There are many students who find science quite impressive but tend to become bored with its theories, facts, and laws. They may simply pass the class to achieve the necessary academic credit to graduate; but they may come away from their educational experience lacking in an area that may lead them to be underprepared for employment in this millennium. Teachers have a chance to reach out to their students; however, as science teachers, we need to remember that our own science education was far too often one in which our science classes were the "weed out" courses, or the ones in which the best or brightest students usually enrolled. It is our duty to encourage our students so that each one, not just the academically "best" students, come out of their grade and high school educational systems believing that they too can learn, find excitement in, and do well in science. We have the opportunity to devote ourselves to this task with the hope that we may spark the flames that may direct some students to become future scientists, doctors, and researchers. Certainly, one way to achieve these goals is to utilize the informal science setting experience, or science field trip, which should include the benefit that the students enjoy and have fun at the specific site chosen. However, it is important to focus their attention on the relationship of that setting to their own daily lives, their education in science, and to other non-science areas. In a report evaluating the role of informal science education, the National Science Foundation (NSF) estimated that 92.9% of people with science-related careers had visited a zoo, planetarium, or aquarium as an informal science education activity sometime during their childhood...

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