The book Amplifying Informal Science Learning: Rethinking Research, Design, and Engagement, edited by Worlds of Connections (WoC) SEPA senior personnel Judy Diamond and her colleague Sherman Rosenfeld, is now available from Routledge. WoC team members Julia McQuillan, Trish Wonch Hill, Meghan Leadabrand, and Amy N. Spiegel contributed the chapter “Fostering Youth STEM Identities Through Social Network Connections in Informal Science Settings” to the volume, which explores the broad landscape of current and future out-of-school science learning environments.
In the chapter “Fostering Youth STEM Identities Through Social Network Connections in Informal Science Settings,” the authors provide a sociological perspective on creating informal science education to support lifelong interest in and use of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) knowledge and practices. In informal STEM learning environments, youth can develop STEM identities through social connections, a sense of belonging in STEM-focused communities, and in turn, maintain interest in STEM.
WoC team members describe insights from experiences with youth in informal settings and research on youth STEM identity formation. They also highlight how informal STEM settings offer the potential to broaden participation to groups historically marginalized and excluded from conventional, formal STEM settings. Finally, the authors provide examples of opportunities for intentional inclusion, accessibility, and identity development in designing informal STEM programming.
The book provides a broad array of insights written by leading experts and innovators in informal science learning. The thoughtful, critical essays included in the collection examine the changing nature of informal institutions such as science museums, zoos, nature centers, planetariums, aquaria, and botanical gardens and their impact on science education. The book examines the learning opportunities and challenges created by community-based experiences including 21st Century Community Learning Centers, citizen science, makerspaces, science media, escape rooms, hobby groups, and gaming.
Based on current practices, case studies, and research, the book focuses on the cross-cutting themes inclusivity, digital engagement, community partnerships, and bridging formal and informal learning to examine how people learn science informally.
On September 12, contributing authors commemorated the publication of Amplifying Informal Science Education with a virtual book launch event. Authors from California, Oregon, Nebraska, New York, Cape Town, Zimbabwe, Poland, Denmark, Greece, Israel, India, and Singapore met and discussed key ideas from their chapters and relevant projects. The event also included remarks from publishers and a short summary discussion.
Amplifying Informal Science Education will be of interest to STEM educators in formal and informal settings, designers of science and experiential education programs, and those interested in building STEM learning ecosystems in their communities.