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Student Perceptions of Interest, Learning, and Engagement from an Informal Traveling Science Museum


Informal Science Education (ISE) programs have been increasing in popularity in recent years. The National Research Council has laid out six strands that ISE programs should try to address, including increasing interest, knowledge, and allowing participants to engage in scientific activities. Past research suggests that informal settings can increase interest in science and may lead to knowledge gains. This study examined the impact of a unique Informal Science Education program that resembles a traveling museum and offers small-scale, interactive experiences. Affective outcomes and self-reported learning outcomes of the students who participated in the program were examined. In general, students reported increases in science interest and some knowledge gains. Students also reported they thought the program allowed them to engage in science. There were differences in student responses based on grade level, with intermediate elementary students more likely to report greater knowledge gains and more likely to see the educational value of the experience. Interestingly, middle school students were more likely to value the social aspects of the experience, another important aspect of ISE. This study provides some insight into the connections between the different ISE strands of informal science education and offers suggestions for future research.

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