Informal science education (ISE) is lifelong learning in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) that takes place across a multitude of designed settings and experiences outside of the formal classroom. Potential informal STEM education projects encompass a wide range of experiences and platforms including film and broadcast media; science centers and museums; zoos and aquaria; digital media and gaming; science journalism; botanical gardens and nature centers; youth, community and afterschool programs; libraries; science festivals, and more. If you are working in or plan to develop a project in one of these settings you may be eligible for funding from the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Informal STEM learning program or other federal, local and private funders who support this type of work (see Funding page for more information).
As a growing professional field, informal STEM education has developed a variety of evidence-based approaches to learning and an established,experienced community of educators, researchers, media developers and many others who design and implement projects in out-of-school educational settings. There is a direct relationship between the ISE setting, event or activity and its learning goals and objectives. It is also often the case that the affordances of a particular setting shape the learning outcomes as much as the learning goals leverage the affordances of the setting. Other variables include the availability and appropriateness of proximal audiences for the project and the content and pedagogical expertise of the team developing it.
By using an informal STEM learning strategy, or by partnering or collaborating with an existing informal education organization, program or individual project developers have unlimited opportunities to create innovative experiences and settings for learning about STEM.
InformalScience.org provides examples and resources that can help you identify potential collaborators,develop a proposal, design evaluation, share results, and support you through the lifecycle of an informal STEM project. The following pages may be helpful as you research, propose, evaluate and disseminate an informal STEM education project.