What do we know?

  • Research shows that formal science learning (i.e., in the classroom) and informal science learning (i.e., learning without formal structure) can impact attitudes toward and interest in science.
  • Informal science activities, including exposure and participation, can impact science attitudes.
  • Evaluation findings from a Midwest science festival indicate that informal science participation is positively related to science attitudes among students. In other words, students who reported participating in informal science learning (i.e., reading science-themed books; attend a science club) reported more positive attitudes than students who reported less participation.
  • Although findings from this study suggest that informal learning and attitudes toward science are related, how these variables are related is still unclear. It may be that students who report higher engagement in informal science learning may develop and strengthen positive attitudes toward science. However, the inverse could also be true: students with positive attitudes toward science seek out opportunities to engage in informal science learning. Additional research is needed in this area to better understand how informal science learning and science attitudes are related.

How do we know?

Survey data were collected from 65 students and 79 parents attending a one-day science fair to better understand their attitudes toward science, confidence in talking with their child/ren about science, and informal science exposure and participation. The science attitude measure consisted of eleven items, each measuring general attitudes toward science and science-related activities (e.g., “I like to participate in science projects,” “I like science”). Informal science exposure consisted of six items that focused on being in environments (e.g., “Have you visited a zoo or aquarium in the last 12 months?) while science participation was measured using four items that focused on doing activities with an explicit focus on science (e.g., “How often do you read science books?,” “How often do you attend a science club?”).

Where do we go to learn more? Elizabeth A. Dippel, Keegan B. Mechels, Emily R. Griese, Rachel N. Laufmann, & Jill M. Weimer. 2016. “Midwest Science Festival: Exploring Students’ and Parents’ Participation in and Attitudes Toward Science.” South Dakota Medicine, 69(8): 343-349.