Life Changes Summative Evaluation
Life Changes: Communicating pre-evolutionary concepts to young children in informal settings was an education and research effort designed to address the lack of basic understanding of the biology of evolution and the challenges of increasing understanding of this complex content in informal learning environments. Exhibit designers from the New York Hall of Science, Miami Science Museum, and North Museum of Natural History & Science worked closely with researchers from the University of Michigan to devise an educational intervention that could meet this critical public science need. Exhibit components were designed to introduce pre-evolutionary concepts that included: variation, inheritance, selection, time, and adaptation (VISTA). Informed by these concepts, the Life Changes team developed Charlie and Kiwi's Evolutionary Adventure a research-based 1000sf traveling exhibition. The summative evaluation investigated whether informal settings can help young children develop the reasoning skills and a sufficient understanding of pre-evolutionary concepts to prepare them for learning about evolution. The evaluation was conducted at the New York Hall of Science (NySci) and the Miami Science Museum (MiaSci). Three data collection approaches were utilized: Timing and tracking, child interviews, and parent surveys.The development process and the exhibition product have provided a much needed opportunity to test basic research principles about how people reason and make sense of the world. In addition this project tested the power and limits of learning from museums and found that even relatively brief experiences in a museum exhibition can begin to influence mental models of biological change.