Van Schijndel, T. J. P., Franse, R. K., & Raijmakers, M. E. J. (2010). The Exploratory Behavior Scale: Assessing young visitors’ hands-on behavior in science museums. Science Education, 94, 794–809.
The authors of this paper were interested in knowing how parents can support exploratory behaviors of their preschool-aged children at museum exhibits. They developed a quantitative instrument based on psychological literature on exploration and play in order to describe and quantify young children's increasing levels of exploration of their environment. They then tested the measurement tool with parents and their preschool-aged children to investigate what types of adult coaching would achieve high-level exploratory behavior at various exhibits.
Alexander, J. M., Johnson, K. E., & Kelley, K. (2012). Longitudinal analysis of the relations between opportunities to learn about science and the development of interests related to science. Science Education, 96(5), 763–786. doi:10.1002/sce.21018
This study considers the relationship between preschoolers’ early exposure to informal science experiences and their interest in science, with particular attention paid to gender differences. A longitudinal study of children ages 4 to 7 found that early science interest was a strong predictor of later parent-provided opportunities to engage in science learning.
Szechter, L. E., & Carey, E. J. (2009). Gravitating toward science: Parent-child interactions at a gravitational-wave observatory. Science Education, 93(5), 846–858.
This study looks at how characteristics of parent-child dyads, in combination with exhibit qualities, contribute to their interactions in a science center. Parent schooling, parent and child attitudes toward science, and the type of activity supported at the exhibits play a role in how they interact together. For ISE professionals, this study shows that parents exert a great deal of influence over what and how their children feel and learn about science.
Allen, S., & Gutwill, J. P. (2010). Creating a program to deepen family inquiry at interactive science exhibits. Curator: The Museum Journal, 52(3), 289–306.
Many informal science institutions design exhibits to encourage inquiry and experimentation. But the authors of this paper suggest that often museums have found that visitors lack the expertise or confidence to engage in coherent inquiry. They report here on their efforts to equip visitors with key inquiry skills through providing families and groups with focused trainings on how to use inquiry-based exhibits.
Falk, J. H., & Needham, M. D. (2011). Measuring the impact of a science center on its community. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 48(1), 1–12. doi:10.1002/tea.20394
A comparison of survey data from 2000 and 2009 supports findings that the California Science Center in Los Angeles provides opportunities for public engagement in science that may not be supported by other education resources. Survey evidence correlates the community’s use of the science center with improvements in science engagement and science literacy.
Fraser, J. (2009). The anticipated utility of zoos for developing moral concern in children. Curator: The Museum Journal, 52(4), 349–361.
Parents committed to bringing their children to zoos ascribed the value of the visits to promoting altruism to prepare their children for future social encounters; transferring their own environmental values; encouraging self-esteem; and inculcating cultural norms. This article suggests that ISE educators can attract/engage parents through appealing to moral development for children.