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STEM Education Research Guide

Use this guide to find UNO library resources and other helpful research tools.

Afterschool programs and informal learning

Afterschool Alliance—STEM & Afterschool
The Afterschool Alliance is a public and private sector collaboration that, "works to ensure that all youth have access to affordable, quality afterschool programs." The Alliance's "STEM & Afterschool" initiative includes an advocacy toolkit to make a case for afterschool STEM programs, a funding sources directory, and webinars on developing and delivering STEM afterschool programs. Research reports found on the web site highlight the positive outcomes of STEM afterschool programs: "improved attitudes toward STEM fields and careers; increased STEM capacities and skills; and higher likelihood of graduation and pursing a STEM career."
Children and Nature Network
The mission of this non-profit is "to connect all children, their families and communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources and tools, broad-based collaboration and support of grassroots leadership." This global network was co-founded by Richard Louv, author of the influential book Last Child in the Wood: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, and others who are passionate about nature-based education. The organization provides online and in-person training for teachers, civic leaders, and parents. Several free toolkits on various topics can be downloaded from the site, including starting nature clubs for families, strategies for pediatricians, and community action guides.
Maintained by the Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE), is a rich portal to information on informal science education projects, research, and assessment. Resources found on the web site include descriptions of all informal science education programs funded by the National Science Foundation; the Informal Science Education (ISE) Wiki, which provides "easy to read summaries of evidence that characterizes the benefits and outcomes of ISE experiences"; and evaluation tools for various types of learning environments.
National Research Council. 2014. STEM learning is everywhere: Summary of a convocation on building learning systems. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Many STEM educational initiatives focus on strategies for the formal school system, but over their academic careers, students actually spend a larger amount of time outside of rather than in school. This document summarizes the presentations, discussions, and reports from break-out groups at a meeting convened in February 2014 to explore ways to seamlessly align STEM learning for elementary and middle school students across all types of learning environments—schools, libraries, museums, camps, and at home. Sponsored by the Teacher Advisory Council of the National Research Council, in association with the California Teacher Advisory Council, over 100 representatives from both the formal and informal education sector began the process of envisioning the future of successful STEM education and devising concrete action plans to achieve that vision.
National Research Council. 2010. Surrounded by science: Learning science in informal environments. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
This book builds upon the information and data gathered in a previous National Research Council publication, Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits (2009). It distills the current research and best practices in informal science education that were included in the previous report and presents them in a more accessible way. Through a variety of case studies sprinkled throughout the book, the authors demonstrate ways to translate the research into practice in areas such as: exploring the connections between science and culture, using media to enrich science learning experiences, and creating linkages between informal and formal educational settings.
National Research Council. 2009. Learning science in informal environments: People, places, and pursuits. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
This book represents the work of the National Research Council's Committee on Learning Science in Informal Environments, which included experts from a variety of fields, such as education research, museum studies, psychology, and media. The committee conducted a broad assessment of the body of research and practices in science learning, across learning environments and age groups from youth to adults, in order to gain an understanding of our current knowledge, identify the benefits of and opportunities in informal science learning, and develop a research agenda. They gathered ample evidence that informal environments can promote science learning in a variety of ways, created a "strands of science learning" framework that can serve as a resource to guide practice and future research, and outlined specific recommendations for exhibit and program designers and informal educators to help create sparks of interest for and an appreciation of science among the general public.
Relating Research to Practice
This web site addresses the disconnect between the growth in the informal science education field and the educational research community, much of whose work is still done in traditional classrooms. Relating Research to Practice contains research briefs on peer-reviewed education research published since 2009. It also includes synthesis papers on selected "hot topics," including communicating about climate change, connecting informal and formal STEM learning, and the role of culture and identity on learning. Researchers at the Center for Informal Learning and Schools (CILS) at the Exploratorium, a science center in San Francisco, oversee this project in collaboration with researchers at the Learning in Informal and Formal Environments (LIFE) Center at the University of Washington, King's College London, and the Afterschool Alliance.

Produced by Eileen G. Harrington. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, Summer 2015.