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.



The palaeontological exhibition: A venue for dialogue

Sandra Murriello

Understanding the dialogue between museums and their visitors enables museums to subsist, undergo transformations and become consolidated as socially valued cultural venues. The Museo de La Plata (Argentina) was created in the late nineteenth century as a natural history museum, and this study shows that currently the museum is valued socially as a venue for family leisure and education, at which people make sense to the objects exhibited through characteristics conferred upon them by both the institution and the visitor. Nevertheless, such dialogue is somehow affected by the museographic proposal and the public interpretation of the institutional narrative, which could be analysed within the frame of contextual learning. As a consequence, the evolutionary idea that the museum aims to communicate is distorted by the public. This article highlights the importance of considering the visitors’ interpretations when planning museum exhibitions, a perspective that has been rather absent in the Argentinian museums.


Popular Climate Science and Painless Consumer Choices: Communicating Climate Change in the Hot Pink Flamingos Exhibit, Monterey Bay Aquarium, California

Merav Katz-Kimchi and Lucy Atkinson

Using critical discourse analysis, we examine the communicative potential of science centers to engage the public in climate change science. Drawing on a theoretical framework combining climate change engagement and communication, science centers as sites of engagement and communication, ecological citizenship, and insights from social cognitive theory, our analysis shows that along with popularizing climate science and making it accessible to the general public, the Hot Pink Flamingos exhibit prioritized individual, marketplace-based action on climate change over solutions requiring large-scale social change or collective action. Responsibility for climate change was individualized, and the political realm was mostly reduced to lifestyle choices.


Science Centers. Which role can they play to participate in a city social reconstruction?

Claudia Aguirre (JCOM)

Science centers are seen as places for communication of science very focused on the mise en scène of the content and methodologies of natural sciences. However, in the recent history, these institutions are transforming their role within education and transformation processes in the society they are engaged with. This communication presents a social project in Medellín, Colombia, that involves a vulnerable community, the local authorities of the city, academic institutions and NGO’s and a science center that is neighbor to this community.