AN INVISIBLE INFRASTRUCTURE:

INSTITUTIONS OF INFORMAL SCIENCE EDUCATION

Volume 1

Findings from A National Survey of Institutions of Informal Science Education

Prepared by: Inverness Research Associates: Mark St. John, President, Kathleen Dickey, Judy Hirabayashi, and Dawn Huntwork

With the assistance of: David Chesebrough, Paul Durham, Nina Houghton , and Pam Tambe

On behalf of: The Association of Science-Technology Centers Incorporated

This grant was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (# ESI-9353341) and the Carnegie Corporation of New York (# B 5499). Opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Carnegie Corporation or the National Science Foundation.

Cover and book design by Chris Raymond, Form+Function

Edited by Andrea Anderson, Soundview Research

 

Contents

 

LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES

I. OVERVIEW

A Survey of Informal Science Education Institutions: Connections with Schools

This Report

II. THE SURVEY

The Design of the Survey

The Sample

III. THE FIELD OF INFORMAL SCIENCE EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS

The 1989 AAM Study

Subset of the Field that Provides Support for School Science Education

Institutional Priority of School Support Programs

Budgets for School Support Programs

The Growth of Educational Programs

IV. TYPES OF SUPPORT FOR SCHOOLS

V. THE TEACHERS SERVED BY INSTITUTIONS OF INFORMAL SCIENCE EDUCATION

Teachers Served by Type of Institution

Grade Level Focus of Institutions

VI. NATIONAL ESTIMATES

Extrapolation to a National Sample

VII. FUNDING

Sources of Funding

VIII. DIVERSITY OF SCHOOLS AND STUDENTS SERVED BY SCIENCE-RICH INSTITUTIONS

Service to Schools

IX. BARRIERS

X. SUMMARY: AN INVISIBLE NATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION

FOOTNOTES


List of Tables and Figures

 

Table 1: The Survey Sample

Table 2: Estimates of Numbers of Informal Science Education Institutions in the U.S.

Table 3: Priority for Programs That Support School Science

Table 4: Education Budget as Percentage of Total Institutional Operating Budget by Type of Institution

Figure 1: Types and Definitions of School-Based Programs

Table 5: Teachers Served Annually through Different Types of Support

Table 6: Total Number of Teachers in Surveyed Institutions Served by Various Forms of Support

Table 7: National Estimates of Numbers of Teachers Served by Institution and by Type of Program

Table 8: National Estimates of Teachers' Participation in In-Service Events

Table 9: The Distribution of Types of Schools Served by Informal Science Education Institutions


I. OVERVIEW

A Survey of Informal Science Education Institutions: Connections with Schools

In July 1994, Inverness Research Associates (IRA) was contracted by the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) to conduct a national survey of informal science education institutions. Funded by grants from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Small Grants for Experimental Research (SGER) program and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the study has several purposes:

1) to establish a national database of informal science education institutions. Such institutions include science centers, natural history museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, planetariums, and nature centers;1

2) to document the range of activities and types of support that these science-rich institutions are providing for schools and teachers;

3) to estimate the national scale of support in terms of the number of teachers and classrooms served each year by these institutions.

It has long been known that science centers and other science-rich institutions2 provide families, youths, and the entire public with rich out-of-school science education experiences. More recently, studies we have conducted, as well as those conducted by others,3 all have indicated that science-rich institutions also may be providing important direct support to schools around the country, contributing in multiple ways to their science education reform efforts. This survey, then, was designed to document the manner and extent to which science-rich institutions are helping schools and teachers in strengthening their science education programs.4

In previous writings, we have discussed the notion of science centers as institutions that comprise an important part of the national science education "infrastructure" that is requisite to developing a population that is scientifically literate.5 Science-rich institutions, we believe, are positioned to provide many kinds of opportunities and contexts for science learning &emdash; public visits, field trips, youth programs, and a range of school-related programs. This study focuses on the latter of those supports &emdash; the ways in which informal science education institutions contribute to school-based science education, and, more broadly, the national effort to reform science education. More specifically, we focus on those museum programs that contribute directly to teachers and their classrooms. Thus, by documenting the kinds and numbers of these institutions in the United States, and by describing the kinds and numbers of programs offered to and attended by teachers, we can begin to understand how science-rich institutions are contributing to the national science education effort.

 

This Report

We have organized the findings in this report to reflect both the structure of the survey and the patterns that emerged as we analyzed the data. In Volume 2**, we include the survey and cover letter that we sent to potential participants of the study, and the complete set of graphs that represent the analysis of the survey data gathered.

 

II. THE SURVEY

 

The Design of the Survey

This survey was not intended to be a comprehensive study of informal science education institutions. It is a small effort aimed at providing rough estimates of the nature and scale of the support to schools provided by science-rich institutions, and a broad documentation of the field, with the aim of providing a general picture of who is out there and what they are doing in terms of providing service to and working with schools.

While the numbers in this study may have uncertainty levels up to 30 percent, they do provide first estimates of the scale of the field of science-rich institutions, and the numbers of teachers served by them. In general, we have made conservative estimates of these numbers. The estimates also provide important qualitative information about the programs and the issues these museums are facing as they seek to serve their neighboring schools.

With this in mind, the survey (see Volume 2**) includes general questions about the:

background and mission of institutions;

institutional priority given to school-based science programs;

forms of support provided for school-based science teaching;

sources of funding for this support;

school and student populations the institutions are serving; and

major barriers and constraints these institutions face as they seek to provide support to schools.

In designing the survey, we drew upon our previous knowledge of science-rich institutions and the issues they face in crafting school-based programs. An advisory committee that included some of the nation's leading informal science educators also provided input. The survey was pilot-tested with several institutions to ensure that the survey would be detailed enough to provide a full picture of institutional efforts to support schools, and yet short enough that museums would be willing to complete it.

The Sample

Surveys were sent to 1,361 institutions. The list of institutions was compiled from other surveys, and from multiple association mailing lists. The types of institutions surveyed included aquariums, arboretums and botanical gardens, children's museums, natural history museums, nature centers, planetariums, science centers, zoos, and others.6

After several follow-up efforts, we received 440 surveys&emdash;a return rate of 32 percent. (See Table 1) While that rate is low, the absolute number of returns is high, which we believe allows us to make meaningful generalizations about the field as a whole. The completed surveys we received also are fairly well distributed among different types of institutions. We also were able to use the results of other surveys, as well as our own knowledge of the field, to assess the degree to which the survey data are, in fact, representative of the broader domain of science-rich institutions.

 

Table 1. The Survey Sample

Type of Institution

# of Surveys Sent

# of Surveys Returned

% Returned

% Providing Support for Schools

Aquariums and zoos

151

78

52%

88%

Arboretums and botanical gardens

342

81

24%

58%

Children's museums

134

57

42%

70%

Natural history museums

56

30

53%

97%

Nature Centers

153

47

31%

81%

Planetariums

314*

27

8%

63%

Science Centers

130

56

43%

98%

Other

81

64

79%

56%

Total

1,361

440

32%

75%

*The 314 figure is slightly larger than the size of the mailing list of the International Planetariums Society. By comparison, AAM counts 39 planetariums. Readers should keep in mind that the IPS counts as members both interested individuals and institutional representatives. In addition, many planetariums are part of a museum; AAM derives its figure by counting only planetariums that are freestanding. See also notes accompanying Table 2.

 

III. THE FIELD OF INFORMAL SCIENCE EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS

This section describes the size and composition of the field of science-rich institutions currently operating in the United States, estimates the numbers of museums that are serving schools, and briefly describes the priority of these programs and their funding base.

The 1989 AAM Study

As previously mentioned, the list of institutions we surveyed was gathered from many sources, including our own earlier surveys and lists obtained from professional associations and publications. To get a sense of the completeness of the list, we also compared the data to that recently published by the American Association of Museums (AAM). In 1989, AAM conducted an extensive study of museums across the country to collect baseline data about the field. We compared the data with data included in AAM's 1992 report based on its study.7 The numbers of institutions we surveyed within each category sometimes varied from the AAM numbers.8

We estimate the numbers of institutions distributed by type, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Estimates of Numbers of Informal Science Education Institutions in the U.S.

Type of Institution

Inverness Research Assocites Database

AAM Database

Aquariums and zoos

151

153

Arboretums and botanical gardens

342

318

Children's museums

134

64

Natural history museums

56

252

(includes anthropology)

Nature Centers

153

297

Planetariums*

309(150)*

39(150)*

Science Centers

130

184

Other

81*

NA

Total for each (IRA & AAM)

1,197

1,418

Total combined best estimate*

1,593

*The estimated field of 1,593 science education institutions is based on the higher of two figures: the number of surveys distributed by Inverness Research Associates (IRA) or the number of institutions counted by AAM. The exceptions are planetariums, where 150, a figure a little less than midway between the AAM figure (39) and the IRA figure (309), was used; and "other" institutions, where we used the number of surveys received from institutions that did not fit our other categories.

 

Subset of the Field that Provides Support for School Science Education

We particularly wanted to know how many of the science-rich institutions are providing services to and support for teachers, schools, and/or districts (beyond a one-day field trip visit). These results appear in Table 1.

Of the 440 institutions returning the survey, 331 (75 percent) responded that they provide school support programs.

Science centers had the highest rate of institutions providing schools with support (98 percent), followed by natural history museums (97 percent).

Of the main types of institutions listed, responding arboretums and planetariums had the lowest rates of support for schools (58 and 63 percent, respectively).9

 

Institutional Priority of School Support Programs

We asked respondents to rate the level of priority they felt their institutions give to programs that serve teachers and schools. (See Table 3)

The degree of priority given to school support programs varied considerably by type of institution (see graphs in Volume 2**):

Eighty-five percent of responding science centers rated their institutions' priority for school support programs "high."

At the other end of the spectrum, 55 percent of the arboretums/botanical gardens rated their institutions' priority "high."

The few institutions that rated their school support programs as being a "low" priority for their institution generally are those involved in curatorial or research-oriented activities associated with public programs, but not many school-centered programs.

Priority for school support is not a function of museum size (i.e., operating budget), but priority for education is correlated to education budget. (Those who say that their institutions give a low priority to school support programs have a median education budget of approximately $8,000; those with a high priority have a median education budget of $40,000.)

 

Table 3. Priority for Programs That Support School Science

Priority of School Support Programs

Priority Descriptions

Percentage of Institutions

High

"The mission of my institution emphasizes education and sees its support for schools as an important part of that mission."

72%

Medium

"The mission of my institution does include education, but not necessarily support for the school-focused programs."

23%

Low

"The mission of my institution may focus on education, but it is not closely aligned with supporting science learning in schools."

5%

Budgets for School Support Programs

Informal science education institutions vary greatly in size. Looking at the relative size of institution operating budgets,10 we found that the respondents ranged from planetariums and other small museums with annual operating budgets of under $5,000 to large aquariums, zoos, and science centers with budgets over $12 million.

We found that the size of the budget devoted to school support programs also varied greatly &emdash; in size and in the percentage of operating budget.

As shown in Table 4, the school support budget ranges from nature and science centers, which spend around 10 percent of their operating budget on education, to aquariums and zoos (with large operating costs), which spend less than 1 percent of their operating budgets on education.

The median operating budget for responding institutions is $850,000.

The median education budget is $30,000.

 

Table 4. Education Budget as Percentage of Total Institutional Operating Budget by Type of Institution

(Median by Type and Size of Institution)

Type of Institution

Small

Medium

Large

Overall

Aquariums and zoos

<1%

2%

<1%

<1%

Arboretums and botanical gardens

3%

3%

2%

2%

Children's museums

9%

2%

3%

3%

Natural history museums

15%

11%

15%

12%

Nature Centers

9%

12%

2%

3%

Planetariums

10%

1%

4%

9%

Science Centers

8%

13%

5%

10%

Other

NA

NA

NA

2%*

*We were not able to break down the "other" category by size of institution.

 

The Growth of Educational Programs

The following trends in school-related programming emerged from the survey:

Nearly half of the responding institutions have had education programs for 10 years or less.
The highest proportion of mature (11+ years) education programs are in nature centers (82 percent), natural history museums (78 percent), and aquariums and zoos (66 percent). Only 27 percent of education programs at children's museums are more than 10 years old.

Programming grew rapidly over the last five years.
Fifty-one percent of the respondents said that the scale of school-related programs "increased greatly" in that time. Thirty-nine percent said that their programs "increased some" over the last 5 years.

Programming is likely to increase substantially in the next three years.
Forty-five percent of the respondents agreed that in the next three years, the scale of school-related programs is likely to "increase dramatically." Forty-six percent said the scale is likely to "increase some."

The education budget of institutions grows over time.
The median education budget for institutions providing educational programs for less than three years is about $12,000. This gradually increases to a $50,000 median education budget for those institutions providing educational programs for more than 10 years.

The priority that institutions give to their school-related educational programs is not related to the age of their programming efforts.
That is, institutions that have been providing educational programs for less time do not necessarily give a lower priority to that programming or to support for schools.

Science-rich institutions increase both the number and diversity of their education support programs over time.
Institutions tend to initiate programs with simpler and less intensive efforts such as special events, structured field trips, and outreach programs. As they increase their programs, gain more financial support, and build their staff capacity, they tend to offer more intensive programs such as institutes and teacher internships.

IV. TYPES OF SUPPORT FOR SCHOOLS

The types of support science-rich institutions offer schools can be organized into three categories, and the following related findings. (See Figure 1, for definitions of the types of support.)

Almost all institutions offer short, one-time programs that serve school audiences.
Teacher special events, structured and educationally supported field trips, and outreach programs, are all examples of this type of program. These kinds of programs tend to require fewer resources and less staff time on the part of institutions. Each of these forms of support is offered by at least 75 percent of responding institutions.

Many institutions also offer medium-length, more intensive forms of support.
About 50 percent of the responding institutions offer teacher workshops and teacher coaching and classroom support, provide assistance with materials and science kits, and help schools with curriculum development.

The larger and better-funded institutions offer the most in-depth and intensive programs.
Programs for pre-service teacher candidates, teacher institutes and follow-ups, internships, and "syndicated" science education programs11 all fall into this category. These types of offerings require a greater commitment on the part of museums in terms of staff time and other resources. They also require more sophistication and expertise on the part of staff. Many require significant collaborations and partnerships. Twenty-five percent or fewer of the informal science education institutions in the country are able to offer these forms of support.

Other interesting facts emerge about the responding institutions' support for schools:

Approximately one-fifth of the responding institutions offer teacher internships.

Almost one-third of all institutions offer programs that have pre-service connections.

Two-thirds of the institutions are engaged in educational collaboratives or partnerships.

One-half of the institutions provide teacher coaching and other forms of classroom support.

Overall, science centers tend to offer more forms of support than do other types of instiutions.

Aquariums and natural history museums are the most frequent providers of school-based support, but they tend to focus on field trips.

The more intensive the support, the higher the percentage of science centers that are providing it.

In comparison to other institutions, a higher percentage of science centers have formal, contractual, agreements with schools (49 percent) and school districts (53 percent). (For all institutions, 28 percent have formal agreements with schools; 33 percent, with districts.)

 

Figure 1: Types and Definitions of School-Based Programs

 

The following chart lists school-based program types and their definitions that are used in the survey of museums.

Teacher internships: Teachers working in the museum on a full- or part-time basis; e.g., a teacher on special assignment, or a teacher serving as a science specialist for the district.

Teacher institutes: Professional development experiences, usually on consecutive days, that cumulatively involve 40 hours or more of participation.

Teacher multi-day workshops: Professional development events that last at least 8 hours but less than 40; e.g., a three-day workshop on a specific topic or a series of five Saturday sessions.

Teacher special events: One-day workshops or special gatherings that take place on a single day.

Teacher coaching and classroom support: Demonstrations, shared teaching, and/or other forms of in-school support by staff or teacher interns from the institution.

Curriculum development/support: Institutional support for the development and/or design of curricula, or technical assistance with selecting curricula.

Materials and kit-based support: Support in helping teachers, schools, or districts select, buy, make, borrow, organize, manage, replenish, and repair classroom science teaching materials.

Outreach programs: "Van" programs, traveling demonstrations, support for school science fairs, and the like.

Structured and educationally supported field trips: Providing teachers with activities that precede and/or follow up on their students' visits to the institution.

Pre-service connections: Courses, apprenticeships, pre-service observations, and/or research opportunities for individuals enrolled in teacher education programs.

National science education programs: The institution serves as a base for national-level programs such as MESA, the JASON Project, and Challenger Centers, which involve students and/or their teachers.

Collaboratives or partnerships: The institution is a member of local educational collaboratives, possibly involving schools, industry, universities, or some combination.

 

V. THE TEACHERS SERVED BY INSTITUTIONS OF INFORMAL SCIENCE EDUCATION

 

Teachers Served by Type of Institution

The institutions responding to the survey provided us with data about the number of teachers who annually participate in different types of support programs. (See Table 5, below.) In these data, we see a clear pattern of teacher participation that is broadest in the least intensive program levels (e.g., special events) and lowest in the most intensive programs (e.g., internships).

 

Table 5. Teachers Served Annually through Different Types of Support (Median numbers of teachers per institution per year)

Type of Institution

Special Events

Teacher Workshops

Institutes

Institute Follow-ups

Pre-service Connections

Internships

Aquariums and zoos

100

45

30

38

25

2

Arboretums and botanical gardens

50

40

34

20

4

3

Children's museums

90

33

23

50

13

4

Natural history museums

163

100

55

30

23

5

Nature Centers

50

50

35

20

17

7

Planetariums

60

20

30

15

26

1

Science Centers

200

75

40

50

30

2

Other

100

50

50

50

8

2

Overall median

100

50

40

50

20

2

 

Grade-Level Focus of Institutions

It also is clear from the survey (and our earlier studies) that science centers are serving many elementary school teachers, some middle school teachers, and far fewer high school teachers. Respondents rated their institutions' efforts to provide support for different grade levels:

Ninety percent of the institutions placed a "major focus" on the elementary school level.

Middle school was rated as a major focus for approximately 25 percent of the responding institutions.

Fewer than 10 percent of the institutions said that high school was a major focus.

 

VI. NATIONAL ESTIMATES

Extrapolation to a National Sample

In Table 6, we show total number of teachers served by the institutions surveyed by Inverness Research.

Using these numbers and a method of extrapolation, we were able to make estimates of the number of teachers across the country who are being served by informal science education programs through the various types of programs they offer. These estimates are shown in Table 7.

About 150,000 teacher participants12 are engaged in short-term teacher education events (special events or teacher workshops) every year.

About 27,500 teacher participants are engaged in more in-depth professional development experiences such as institutes and institute follow-ups.

About 1,000 teachers each year are serving some form of residency or internship in science-rich institutions.

Approximately 10,000 teacher-candidate participants are engaged in programs in science-rich institutions each year.

There are approximately 2.9 million teachers in the United States.13

Of these, approximately 160,000 are secondary-level science teachers.

There are about 1.5 million elementary teachers, who theoretically all teach science.

Therefore, about 1.66 million teachers teach science at the K-12 level.

Informal science education institutions offer in-service activities for a significant portion of the nation's science teachers. According to national survey data, 57 percent of elementary school teachers participate in science education in-service each year (see Table 8).

Nearly 1 million (960,000) teachers engaged in science in-service activities last year (840,000 or 56 percent of elementary teachers and 123,000, or 77 percent of secondary teachers).

Informal science education institutions serve approximately 181,000 teacher participants (at all grade levels) each year.

Therefore, roughly 18 percent (181,000 of 960,000) of all teachers who engaged in science in-service activities participated in events at ISE institutions.

Approximately 11 percent (180,000 out of 1.66 million) of all teachers who teach science participated in in-service activities each year at ISE institutions.

Informal science education institutions offer many teachers in-depth institute experiences.

Smaller numbers of elementary teachers (45,000) and secondary-level science teachers (16,000) participate in intensive (more than 35 hours) in-service activities each year.

Approximately, then, 31 percent (18,620 of 61,000) of all those teachers who participate in in-depth institute experiences participated in such institutes at informal science education institutions.

Table 6. Total Number of Teachers in Surveyed Institutions Served by Various Forms of Support

Special Events

Teacher Workshops

Institutes

Institute Follow-ups

Pre-service Connections

Internships

Total number of teachers served per year by those institutions responding to our survey

52,632

17,521

8,543

4,979

3,579

380

 

Table 7. National Estimates of Numbers of Teachers Served by Institution and Type of Program

(Teachers per year)

Type of Institution

Special Events

Teacher Workshops

Institutes

Institute Follow-ups

Pre-service Connections

Internships

Aquariums and zoos

20,331

2,682

561

204

1,575

122

Arboretums and botanical gardens

6,877

1,992

1,234

80

31

101

Children's museums

5,222

592

360

100

286

24

Natural history museums

11,321

5,853

2,170

178

1,583

222

Nature Centers

30,741

7,423

5,628

2,323

1,751

238

Planetariums

4,650

1,370

609

87

296

9

Science Centers

30,923

17,360

6,194

5,049

4,174

227

Other

4,632

1,065

1,862

860

328

61

Total

114,430

38,340

18,620

8,888

10,020

1,004

 

Table 8. National Estimates of Teachers' Participation in In-Service Events

(Percent of teachers by hours of in-service and level).*

Amount of In-Service in Last Year

Elementary School

Middle School

High School

None

44%

23%

23%

Less than 6 hours

31%

22%

23%

6-15 hours

19%

32%

31%

16-35 hours

4%

14%

14%

More than 35 hours

3%

9%

10%

*Special tabulations conducted by Horizon Research Incorporated, Chapel Hill, N.C., of the 1993 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education.

 

VII. FUNDING

Sources of Funding

Teacher education and other school programs tend to be market-driven. Fifty percent of the support for school-based programs comes from fees for service and unreimbursed museum support.

There is some but not extensive state and federal support for these programs. About 12 percent of the support for school programs comes from federal, state, and foundation sources.

Natural history museums and science centers have the most federal support.

Science centers have the most diverse types of support.

Aquariums, arboretums, and natural history museums depend heavily on local and non-reimbursed support.

NSF, Eisenhower, and state funds are critical to providing costly teacher internships and institutes.

 

VIII. DIVERSITY OF SCHOOLS AND STUDENTS SERVED BY SCIENCE-RICH INSTITUTIONS

Service to Schools

The survey was designed to get a sense of the schools and students that the informal science education institutions are serving. We found that approximately 60 percent focus mainly on urban schools; just under half focus strongly on suburban schools; and about one-third devote their time and effort to rural schools. In particular, we wanted to determine the degree to which these institutions were targeting schools with large (or small) numbers of students who are underrepresented in math and science. Thus, we asked institutions to estimate the percentage of schools they served that were 1) low in minority students, 2) proportional to minority populations in their general region, or 3) "overrepresented" in minority students. Table 9, below, shows the relative distribution of schools served by these institutions.

Institutions of informal science education provide equal services to schools with low, medium, or high percentages of students from ethnic groups underrepresented in science.

Nearly 30 percent of institutions "heavily serve"14 schools with underrepresented students.

Most institutions serve considerably more schools with high numbers of un-derrepresented students than schools with low numbers of such students. The exceptions to this pattern are natural history museums and nature centers.

Planetariums are "overrepresented" in the degree to which they serve underrepresented students: that is, 40 percent of the planetariums say that more than half of the schools that they serve have a high proportion of minority students. Nature centers are "underrepresented"; only seven percent serve a high proportion of minority students. (The rest of the institution types average around 25 to 30 percent.)

Those institutions that give low priority to education programs are likely to be serving more schools with large minority populations. (That is, more than one-half of the institutions that are heavily serving minority schools say that their institutions give a low priority to their school support programs.)15

 

Table 9. The Distribution of Types of Schools Served by Informal Science Education Institutions

Type of Institution

% serving schools with...

% heavily serving underrepresented students

low #s

average #s

high #s

...of underrepresented students

Aquariums and zoos

29%

31%

41%

29%

Arboretums and botanical gardens

27%

34%

39%

25%

Children's museums

30%

31%

39%

33%

Natural history museums

41%

39%

19%

7%

Nature Centers

32%

35%

33%

28%

Planetariums

30%

26%

44%

40%

Science Centers

26%

40%

34%

26%

Other

35%

32%

33%

29%

All institutions

31%

34%

35%

27%

 

IX. BARRIERS

 

Overall, there did not seem to be surprising or overwhelming barriers cited to providing support for school-based science education.

The three greatest barriers to institutions' "willingness and ability to provide support for school programs" were reported as:

1) Overall lack of funding;
2) Financial limitations of schools and districts;
3) Lack of staff, time, and space.

These barriers were approximately equal in importance for all types of institutions. Barriers that were rated as having a "moderate degree" of importance include:

1) Lack of recognition of museums and other science-rich institutions by schools;
2) Lack of school and district commitment to teacher professional development.

Lack of institutional priority for education was not seen as a barrier to most institutions' willingness or ability to provide support for school programs.

 

X. SUMMARY: AN INVISIBLE NATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION

Our survey provides evidence that substantiates the case that institutions of informal science education already are an important part of the national infrastructure for science education. They are prevalent: one for every 50 schools, and one for every 1,000 elementary school teachers in the United States (or at least 1,500 institutions). They currently serve upwards of 150,000 U.S. teachers teaching science, approximately 10 percent of the total in the teaching force .

The funding for these programs is local and market-driven. With additional funding from state and federal sources, museums tend to provide more intensive and substantial forms of support, such as teacher internships, institutes, and pre-service programs. Critical to their ability to provide such services is the museum's capacity in terms of staff, relationships with local schools and districts, and fundraising sophistication.

Currently, relative to their potential for supporting high quality science education in the United States, these institutions are under-subsidized. To some extent, their fate is in their own hands. Informal science education institutions must increase the visibility of their educational programs at both local and national levels. They must continue to evolve high-quality programs. Ultimately, they can and must make a much stronger case for their work with schools. It is clear from this survey that, collectively, informal science education institutions do indeed provide infrastructure for science education, contributing in significant ways to the teaching of science in the nation's schools.

 

 

FOOTNOTES

 

1 Little knowledge exists about the size and composition of science-rich institutions in the United States. ASTC has members that comprise a subset of the field; the American Association of Museums' (AAM) membership also includes many of these institutions; and the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) provides some coordination for zoos and aquariums.

2 In this report, we use the terms "science-rich institutions," "informal science education institutions" and "museums" interchangeably.

3 First Hand Learning: Teacher Education in Science Museums, a joint publication of the ASTC Teacher Educa- tor's Network and Inverness Research Associates,1990; Data Report &emdash; 1989 National Museum Survey, American Association of Museums, January 1992; Vision to Reality: Critical Dimensions in Science Center Development, ASTC, 1993.

4 The notion of providing "support for school science education" was meant to include a wide range of activities that help improve the teaching of science in schools. It does not include activities that take place solely in the museum and that are essentially unrelated to what happens in classrooms. Thus, a traditional field trip would not be counted in this study, while a field trip that was part of a broader school lesson would be included.

5 This conceptualization first appeared in Mark St. John and Deborah Perry, "Rethink role, science museums urged," ASTC Newsletter, 21 (5), 1993: 1, 6-7. See also Mark St. John and Deborah Perry, "A framework for evaluation and research: Science, infrastructure and relationships," in Museum Visitor Studies in the 90s, Sandra Bicknell and Graham Farmelo (Eds.), Science Museum, London, 1993: 59-66.

6 The "other" category includes general museums, one-of-a-kind museums (e.g., herbarium, national research lab), hybrids, and business and industry museums.

7 Data Report &emdash; 1989 National Museum Survey, American Association of Museums, January 1992.

8 We think this occurred for the following reasons: 1) Our study was not as exhaustive as AAM's survey; it was a much smaller sample size of more specific types of institutions. 2) We believe the respondents to our survey tended to be older and larger (such as those with school programs and with the resources to respond). 3) The task of acquiring comprehensive mailing lists is a large and expensive one, and the budget for our project did not allow for it.

9 Of "other" institutions &emdash; including general museums, one-of-a-kind museums (e.g., herbariums, national research labs), hybrids, and business and industry museums &emdash; 56 percent provide support for schools.

10 Throughout this study, institution sizes are defined by budget; different types of institutions are categorized in different ways (i.e., each type has its own breakdown of budget size categories).

11 These include programs such as the JASON Project and Challenger Centers.

12 Note that some individual teachers may be counted twice in these tallies.

13 On this page, overall numbers of teachers in the U.S., as well as numbers of teachers participating in science in-service provided by all sources (including, but not limited to ISE institutions) are special tabulations provided by Horizon Research Incorporated using data from the 1990-91 Schools and Staffing Survey of the National Center for Education Statistics.

14 The term "heavily serve" indicates those institutions for whom over 50 percent of the schools they serve have the highest percentage of underrepresented students.

15 This is an intriguing and disturbing finding. Upon reviewing the list of institutions that say that education is a low priority, we hypothesize that they consist of mainly arboretums and botanical gardens in urban settings, and that their primary mandates are not education but rather, collections and research.


(**Volume 2 is available as noted below.)

©Association of Science-Technology Centers Incorporated,1025 Vermont Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20005 202/783-7200. 202/783-7207 (fax).Reproduced here with permission of ASTC.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the Association of Science-Technology Centers Incorporated.

Printed in the United States

ISBN#: 0-944040-46-2


The Association of Science-Technology Centers is a nonprofit organization of science centers and museums dedicated to furthering the public understanding of science and technology. ASTC encourages excellence and innovation in informal science learning by serving and linking its members worldwide and advancing their common goals.

Additional copies of this executive summary are available from the ASTC Publications Department, 1025 Vermont Ave.NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC. 20005. In addition, An Invisible Infrastructure: Volume 1, Findings ($13 for ASTC Members, $18 for Nonmembers) and Volume 2**: Statistics ($30 for ASTC Members, $36 for Nonmembers) also are available. Phone 202/783-7200.

An Invisible Infrastructure: Institutions of Informal Science Education

Executive Summary (ISBN# 0-944040-45-4)

Volume 1: Findings (ISBN# 0-944040-46-2)

Volume 2 : Data Report. (ISBN# 0-944040-47-0)

Three-volume set (ISBN# 0-944040-44-6)

 

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