Science Learning+

Science Learning+: projects we've funded

Partnership grants

Partnership grants were awarded in March 2017. Each project will receive total funding of up to £1.5 million, and will last from three to five years.

Partnering for equitable science pathways for under-represented youth

Project leads: Louise Archer, UCL Institute of Education, and Angela Calabrese-Barton, Michigan State University

Access to, and opportunities within, informal science learning (ISL) remain limited for young people from historically under-represented backgrounds. However, there is evidence that ISL experiences can expand opportunities for youth agency, learning and development, both in science and more widely.

This four-year project responds to three challenges in ISL research and practice: 

During the project, practitioners and researchers will work with young people through design-based implementation research, surveys and critical ethnography. The goal is to develop new understandings of how:

Researching the impact of integrated art science programmes amongst non-dominant learners on science and technology affiliation

Project leads: Joseph Roche, Trinity College Dublin, and Bronwyn Bevan, University of Washington

An integrated art and science approach can help young people to engage with and learn about science, particularly those from low-income and under-represented communities.

This project will develop:

STEM teens: examining the role of youth educators as learners and teachers in informal STEM learning sites

Project leads: Adam Rutland, Goldsmiths, University of London, and Adam Hartstone-Rose, University of South Carolina and Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, Columbia

One way to encourage young people to pursue training in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) fields and enter the STEM workforce is to foster interest and engagement during adolescence. Informal STEM Learning Sites (ISLS) frequently provide opportunities to participate in volunteer programmes, internships or work. 

Following youth participants longitudinally over the course of five years, this project will document the impact of youth educators on visitor learning at six ISLS in the USA and UK. 

The specific outcomes are to: 

The results of this research will be used to develop best practices for implementing youth educator programs in ISLS, and be disseminated to both academic and practice-based communities. 

Understanding the role of embodied interaction in pre-school children's learning about science in informal settings

Project leads: Andrew Manches, University of Edinburgh, and Judy Brown, Museum of Science, Miami

Science education researchers and practitioners often face the challenge of designing and evaluating learning experiences for young children whose language skills are still emerging. Building on evidence that movement is tightly intertwined with thinking, this project will investigate how thought and movement link as embodied learning to accelerate science understanding.

During a three-year period, researcher-practitioner teams across six museum sites in the UK and USA will collaboratively investigate the links between movement and learning at selected science exhibits designed for young learners, aged 3-6 years. Research will be conducted with a diverse population of children and will explore the application of embodied learning to communities under-represented in science.

A design-based research methodology will be applied to address three key questions:

This project will raise awareness of embodied approaches to learning as well as build stronger collaborations between informal science educators and learning sciences researchers.

Youth learning in public participation in science research opportunities (crowdsourcing and citizen science) facilitated by natural history museums

Project leads: Lucy Robinson, Natural History Museum, London, and Heidi Ballard, University of California, Davis

This four-year research study is looking at citizen science projects led by natural history museums (NHMs). It seeks to establish what impact citizen science projects have on the young people that take part in them.

The study focuses on three types of citizen science experiences:

It is using observations, surveys, interviews and learning analytics to explore three overarching questions about youth learning. 

The findings will be shared with other organisations doing citizen science projects to improve young people’s engagement with science.

Planning grants

Planning grants focus on developing initial ideas and creating new partnerships.

Broadening participation in science and technology through transdisciplinary youth development activities

Project lead: Joseph Roche, Trinity College Dublin

Science and technology-related skills, such as computational thinking, design, data visualisations and digital storytelling, are increasingly important. Many new jobs will need a blend of skills, such as programming and design, that students who have disengaged with academic STEM pathways may already have and would be eager to develop further.

This project investigates out-of-school time (OST) programmes that integrate epistemic practices from the arts, sciences, computer science and other disciplines in consequential activities, such as creating radio segments or building online games. It aims to understand how such activities can engage young people who do not already identify as science or technology learners.

The project will involve:

This project will build the knowledge base in emerging 21st century transdisciplinary approaches to broadening participation.

Enhancing informal learning through citizen science

Project lead: Richard Edwards, University of Stirling

Citizen science can be described as scientific research conducted by amateur or non-professional scientists who crowdsource their contributions as part of a wider research project. Research in the USA and UK suggests that citizen science can help people to participate in and learn about science. 

This project aims to:

Science Live 

Project lead: John Durant, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Public science events range in scale from intimate group conversations to festivals for tens of thousands; from one-time events to long-term campaigns. Whatever their setting, they aim to engage the public with science in a social context.

Public science events already happen in both the US and UK, and initial evaluations demonstrate beneficial impacts for public audiences, organisations that collaborate on events, and scientists that participate.

This project will deliver a report and website that summarise existing activity and findings related to live science events, and suggest areas for future investigation.

The contribution of natural history museums to science education

Project lead: Michael Reiss, UCL Institute of Education

Relatively little is known about how natural history museums (NHMs) and schools can complement each another to maximise young people’s learning about and engagement with science. 

In this project, researchers in UK and US universities will work with practitioners in NHMs and school teachers in the UK and the US to:

The project will devise validated instruments (of the sort that are increasingly used in large-scale social psychology studies) and explore whether data obtained from museum visitors can be matched to external datasets, both in the UK and in the US.

Youth access and equity in informal science learning: developing a research and practice agenda

Project lead: Louise Archer, King's College London

This project will develop a research and practice agenda around youth access and equity in informal science learning. It will focus on addressing equity issues for young people, aged 11-14, primarily from communities from minority backgrounds who have historically tended not to engage with science outside of school. 

The project will involve researchers and practitioners from three informal science learning contexts:

It will document the multiple pathways young people take within/across informal science learning settings over time, the impact these pathways have on learning and development, and the influence they have on informal science learning organisations. This will help to identify the aspects of learning environments which shape youth access and development.