Changemakers: Advancing Community Science Literacy
This ChangeMakers project builds on a 2016 National Academies report finding that scientific literacy can be understood at a community level as opposed to a traditional focus on the individual. This is important since scientific knowledge is often seen as abstract and distant from the daily concerns of average citizens. A community focus shifts the spotlight away from individual learning to collective learning facilitated by trusted cultural institutions serving as social assets. This work brings together scientific expertise and community organizations to advance operational science literacy--scientific ways of problem-solving--for community leaders and functional science literacy--information and skills people can use in their daily lives--among their service populations. This will be done by gathering and sharing knowledge and developing skills and abilities to contribute to the community's overall well-being.
The New England Aquarium (NeAq) and Aquarium of the Pacific (AoP) will apply a community engagement model involving active listening, documentation, alignment of concerns and goals, and co-development of shared solutions that serves the needs of all participants. As part of the Advancing Community Science Literacy (ACSL) project, multi-disciplinary teams from NeAq, AoP and their regional partners will participate in training on the model. They will apply that training to build and implement action plans to advance community-driven responses to local environmental issues. Teams will be assessed with respect to how they use tools from their shared training, along with peer support and coaching, to make progress in engaging diverse community stakeholders. Results of the evaluation will offer insights and recommendations for informal science learning centers to serve their communities more effectively as engagement facilitators and change agents to support science literacy development and action. By applying techniques developed for cultural institutions to communicate about climate science, and combining those with techniques developed for libraries and other organizations to help meet emergent community concerns, such as storm surges and coastal flooding, it is possible to redefine the role informal science learning centers can play as part of a community culture.
ACSL is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program which supports projects that provide multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advances innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and develops understandings of deeper learning by participants.