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Baram-Tsabari, A. & Yarden, A. (2009). Identifying meta-clusters of student’s interest in science and their change with age. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46(9), 999–1022.

If student interest in science is a predictor of careers in science, how can we characterize student interest across ages? Analyzing 6,000 questions from students gathered from informal science settings such as questions submitted to TV shows or Ask-a-Scientist websites, this study classifies student interest in science into six clusters. Younger students (K-9) showed interest in zoology, technology, and astrophysics while older students (10–12) showed interest in physics, chemistry, and biology. This shift of interest to science topics covered in school is relevant to informal science learning as informal spaces have the opportunity to provide advanced and supplementary experiences beyond science in school with the goal of expanding on established interests and also providing learners with opportunities to encounter other ideas and generate new interests.

Stavrova, O., & Urhahne, D. (2010). Modification of a school programme in the Deutsches Museum to enhance students’ attitudes and understanding. International Journal of Science Education, 32(17), 2291–2310.

A modified guided tour increased students’ intrinsic motivation, interest, and perceived competence, and was more interesting and less boring than a traditional docent-led tour. Providing students with more opportunities for group work and active participation led to improvement in understanding and motivational and emotional states during the visit. Experiencing less negative emotions (anger) during the visit and prior knowledge contributed to a better understanding.

Silva, J., & Bultitude, K. (2009). Best practice in communications training for public engagement with science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Journal of Science Communication, 8(2). 322 – 357.

In informal learning environments, science experts, explainers, and guides need support in their work to educate the general public in STEM topics. This study surveyed participants and trainers in communications training programs to determine the best methods for achieving such a purpose. The researchers suggest that training programs be practical, authentic and interactive, and provide participants opportunities for feedback.

Davidson, S. K., Passmore, C., & Anderson, D. (2009). Learning on zoo field trips: The interaction of the agendas and practices of students, teachers, and zoo educators. Science Education, 94, 122–141.

This study outlines the learning goals, expectations, and perceived outcomes of a zoo field trip from the perspective of students, classroom teachers, and informal educators. They find, among other things, that that students most highly valued the social aspects of the field trip – opportunities to be with their friends and to discuss the field trip events with their friends. They also find that informal educators did not quite understand the needs or interests of the students and therefore missed opportunities to engage students with the science in the zoo. The authors close with several recommendations for planning class visits to museums, zoos, and other informal science institutions.

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.