Much attention has been given to finding more effective ways to increase student proficiency in science over the last few years. A common belief has been to make improvements in this area through teacher training and science curriculum, but budget cuts along with new research are having educators and parents looking to science programs offered outside of the classroom to increase students’ understanding of science.
In a recent EdWeek article, “Role of Science Learning Outside of School Grows,” writer Erik Robelen discusses how the study “Learning Science in Informal Environments” by the National Research Council is paving the way by discovering the value of students getting involved in non-school programs. Most of students’ time is spent outside of school which lends a great opportunity for more learning to take place and in an environment free from grades and testing.
It’s popular for Americans to think of learning in terms of how well students did on a standardized test. Advocates for non-school learning are supporting these recent studies by arguing the learning students receive outside the classroom gauges scientific skills and understanding in ways that are more appropriate to a variety of settings and gives the learner more confidence in identifying themselves as someone who is knowledgable about science.
“If we allow the things that are easy to measure in school districts as the only definitions of learning we’re going to consider, we are leaving off the table an awful lot of things,” said Kevin J. Crowley, the director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments and an associate professor of education and psychology. “We need to have compelling, theory-based, reliable measures, and we’re just beginning to chip away at that right now.”
Some examples of non-school activities that you and your student can get involved in to boost scientific understanding are:
- the zoo
- the aquarium
- watching scientific television shows
- after-school programs
- science magazines
- astronomy and robotics clubs
- the internet
Getting students involved in and excited about educational programs outside of the classroom establishes the behavior for them to become lifelong learners. What resources do you use to get your students involved in science? Do you have a student that seeks out scientific information independently? Share in the comment box below.