An exploration of hispanic mothers’ culturally sustaining experiences at an informal science center

Ingrid Weiland

Science education reform focuses on learner-centered instruction within contexts that support learners’ sociocultural experiences. The purpose of this study was to explore Hispanic mothers’ experiences as accompanying adults at an informal science center within the context of culturally sustaining experiences, which include the fluidity and plurality of cultural and linguistic diversity, and support multilingualism and multiculturalism in practice and perspective for learners. Through a phenomenological approach, eight Hispanic mothers were observed with their children at a science center and then interviewed to elicit an understanding of their experiences. Results indicate that mothers were largely unfamiliar with museums in general, yet the science center supported their socio-cultural ways of learning and engaging with their children. Nevertheless, from the perspective of the mothers, opportunities exist for the science center to provide more cultural/linguistic access to the exhibits. While prior research has shown that informal science education can encompass culturally meaningful experiences by affirming cultural identities, results from this study suggest that this inclusive and affirming approach be extended to all informal science venues using a multi-modal approach to learning, and should include cultural sustainability to support negotiations between prior and current cultural contexts. This could include, but is not limited to, targeted outreach and programming that values parents as intellectual resources and involving diverse community members not only in the design process but also in the operations of the center.

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