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.


Evolution of evaluation in science museums and centres

M. Carmen Sanchez-Mora (JCOM)

The great increase in visitor studies on science museums and centres (SMC) has been marked also by a shift in approach to these studies, paying more attention to the social context of the visits and the nature of the experience. Evaluations have influenced directly SMC exhibition practices but more attention needs to be paid in research about the personal experiences of visits, how these are interpreted and how they contribute to scientific literacy.


The Aeolus project: Science outreach through art

Ian A. Drumm, Amanda Belantara, Steve Dorney, Timothy P. Waters, Eulalia Peris

With a general decline in people’s choosing to pursue science and engineering degrees there has never been a greater need to raise the awareness of lesser known fields such as acoustics. Given this context, a large-scale public engagement project, the ‘Aeolus project’, was created to raise awareness of acoustics science through a major collaboration between an acclaimed artist and acoustics researchers. It centred on touring the large singing sculpture Aeolus during 2011/12, though the project also included an extensive outreach programme of talks, exhibitions, community workshops and resources for schools. Described here are the motivations behind the project and the artwork itself, the ways in which scientists and an artist collaborated, and the public engagement activities designed as part of the project. Evaluation results suggest that the project achieved its goal of inspiring interest in the discipline of acoustics through the exploration of an otherworldly work of art.