Science Learning+: Collaborative Adventures in Informal Science Learning and Practice

Creating and fostering research-practice partnerships that highlight the value of informal science learning (ISL)


Science Learning+ (SL+) was an open call for proposals for Planning and Partnership Grants, through an international partnership between the National Science Foundation, Wellcome Trust and the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). 

The initiative aimed to create and foster research-practice partnerships in informal science learning (ISL), including strengthening the research and knowledge base, bridging the gap between practice and research, and sharing knowledge and experience in informal STEM experiences. It also sought to support practice-based research in several priority areas such as engagement, skills development; equity, diversity, and access to informal science learning settings.  

Five projects were funded in 2017, and included collaborations between at least one organisation in the US and one in the UK or Republic of Ireland. The funded projects spanned a range of topics.

The ISL projects

What is ISL?

Informal learning experiences – like visiting museums, meeting scientists, watching YouTube videos and playing games – offer huge potential for young people to engage with and learn about science in a way that works for them.

Why is ISL important? 

All young people deserve to be inspired by science and to see its relevance to them. Young people spend up to 80% of their time outside of school and therefore they it is important that they have many opportunities to learn about science in informal settings. 

Wellcome research shows that informal science learning may be particularly beneficial for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are more likely to find science subjects challenging and unengaging at school. 

Inform your practice

The projects have generated a number of useful resources and toolkits to guide practitioners, producers, researchers and funders in how they develop, deliver and support informal science learning. Three key overarching themes have arisen around this work:

  • Involving children and young people in ISL programming, practice and research 
  • Supporting equity within and through collaborative and interdisciplinary research
  • Working well across boundaries and borders (geographical, disciplinary, research and practice)
 
"I'd never really put science and art together. As a career option, you either go definitely into a science place or you definitely go into art…And then I was like, 'There really isn't just one way to do things, there's so many things, and you don't ever have to be in one path."
Participant at Science Gallery Dublin (Creativity & Equity in STEM project)

Further learning

The Learn CitSci podcasts

The Learn CitSci project explored how citizen and community science can be deliberately designed to support young people to develop their sense of agency.

Listen to the podcasts

 

Have you ever wondered why you gesture when explaining science ideas to children? Watch the video below!

The next steps

The NCCPE along with the British Science Association (BSA) and NatCen Social Research (NatCen), have taken over the final phase of the programme from Wellcome. We are working with the projects to draw on the lessons learnt and maximise the impact of learning and outputs.This includes engaging with both established and new stakeholders, including practitioners, producers, funders and decision-makers, to advocate for more support, funding and investment in informal science learning. 

We look forward to sharing more with you as we develop further content and outputs. Watch this space!

Contact
For all enquiries, please contact Sian Aggett at sian.aggett@uwe.ac.uk.