An Interesting Perspective: Round 2

Howdy Bloggers,


We’re back! I hope everyone’s 2018 is off to a great start! An Interesting Perspective has big things planned for the year, and we hope you check back in each week to stay up to date. This week we will discuss informal teaching and learning in science.

Image result for informal science education

Take a look at the picture above. You are probably thinking this is some sort of entertainment show, maybe even a magic show. What if I told you that this was being used as an education tool. Imagine students getting to witness something like this. It is certainly engaging and exciting, and would likely motivate students to learn how it happens.

Why is it that these types of experiences are often ignored in formal education? Why are the stakes always so high and determined by a grade, rather than by knowledge and understanding? In an article titled “Reframing research on informal teaching and learning in science: Comments and commentary at the heart of a new vision for the field” from the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, the importance and incorporation of informal science teaching and learning is discussed.

Image result for what is informal science

As you can see in the graphic above, nearly all of the learning an individual accomplishes over the course of a lifetime is through informal learning environments, so students are already accustomed to this type of learning. Why dramatically change that when discussing science?

Reasons to Use Informal Science Education

  1. Increase science literary development – Informal education often requires communication between peers and educators. Studies have shown that literacy development occurs in students due to the nature of the learning, specifically when using language to connect concepts from multiple disciplines, or across multiple content areas entirely.
  2. Increase interpersonal skills and communication – Informal education offers students the opportunity to engage in many meaningful collaborations. Within these collaborations, students are able to improve interpersonal and communication skills due to their interactions, as well as allowing each of the students to learn from the other members’ own experiences.
  3. It provides a new lens for science – This style of science learning allows students to work with one another to trace science literacy development, as well as have an in-depth understanding of a topic in which they are interested.

Ways to Implement 

  1. Boundary encounters
    1. Field Trips
    2. Outreach Projects
    3. Workshops
  2. Boundary objects
    1. Ideas and activities that are “both plastic enough to adapt to local needs and the constraints of the several parties employing them, yet robust enough to maintain a common identity across settings.”

Image result for outdoor field trips

Don’t be afraid to take students outside of the formal learning environment; rather, embrace the opportunity to take them on a trip to the margins. It might just be more beneficial.


Rahm, J. (2014). Reframing research on informal teaching and learning in science: Comments and commentary at the heart of a new vision for the field. Journal of Research in Science Teaching,51(3), 395-406. doi:10.1002/tea.21141


  1. Billy-
    The questions you asked during your introduction are things we discuss and think about ALL the time, very good at grabbing my attention (and the picture did too). Your perspective and main points on informal science education are thought provoking. They make me wonder how much room I will have to implement these ideas when we still have standards, testing, and so many other things in our future curricula. The Thomas Edison quote is one of my favs. Awesome blog!

  2. Dillon,
    Boundary objects are things such as maps, specimens, documents, etc. that have interpretative meaning. This means that their meaning can be derived differently across cultures or communities, but have enough grounded fact to be meaningful. These really allow students to bring an individualized approach to the learning.

  3. Meghan,
    An example of an outreach project could be working with a local or state park. This might look something like this: a group of students goes to a park to help clean or maintenance an animal cage. While there, they help the park by doing guided tasks, but also get an educational experience by learning what conditions those animals prefer, what they prefer to eat, how they survive in the wild vs in captivity, etc.

    An example of a workshop could be something as simple as having a guest speaker come in to discuss something like groundwater, or more complex like bringing a zoo representative into the classroom.

  4. Billy,
    Great job on the blog! Informal learning is incredibly important, and so much of it is done even when we aren’t in a setting for learning. I like that you linked the connection between informal learning and going into the margins. I wasn’t quite sure what the boundary objects were, could you give some possible examples? Overall, excellent blog!

  5. Billy-
    I really found the lifelong learning graphic interesting! And it’s so true! Learning isn’t limited to the classroom environment! Learning doesn’t have to be reading textbooks and taking standardized tests to show what you know. Learning occurs everyday of your life.
    I’m wondering what is meant by outreach projects and workshops? Are there any specific ones mentioned in the article, or any that you’ve thought of or considered?

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