Interaction with learners

4 unexpected places adults can learn science | national news

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Jill Zarestky, Colorado State University

(THE CONVERSATION) Modern society benefits when people understand scientific concepts. This knowledge helps explain how cryptocurrency works, why climate change is happening, or how the coronavirus is transmitted from person to person.

Yet the average American spends less than 5% of their life in classrooms studying such subjects. So, other than school, where else can people go to study and explore science?

Museums, zoos, and libraries are definitely a good start. As a STEM adult education researcher, I study less conventional ways for people of all ages to learn and participate in science.

Here are four alternative places where the general public can enjoy nature, engage in hands-on science learning, and get a behind-the-scenes look at scientific research in action.

1. National parks

Visitors to national parks have increased dramatically over the past two years as the pandemic has prompted people to get out and enjoy nature more regularly. However, people often don’t realize that many parks offer lecture series, nature walks, and interactive science learning opportunities for those who wish to add an extra layer of scientific and environmental knowledge to their outdoor experience. .

For example, Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona has ranger programs that educate the public about changes taking place in the canyon due to weathering and erosion. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which spans Tennessee and North Carolina, offers its own educational program, but also partners with local groups to provide guided nature hikes or volunteer opportunities for the construction of trails.

For those who do not wish to venture into the great outdoors, the National Parks Service offers a variety of online resources, such as virtual park tours and webcams that present real-time views of the weather, spectacular scenery. , wildlife and more.

Find the nearest national park here.

2. University extension programs

Granting universities are responsible for translating and disseminating scientific research to the public and exist in every state and territory of the United States.

They often do this through what are called “extension” programs. Master Gardener is popular, but there are also many unique local options. For example, Colorado State University offers a Native Bee Watch program that trains volunteers to identify and monitor bees in their backyards or in local natural areas. An outreach program at the University of Minnesota teaches volunteers how to detect aquatic invasive species in local rivers and lakes.

3. Biological stations in the field

Biological field stations are usually associated with universities or other research institutes. While scientific and environmental research is the primary focus, many field stations offer programs for adult learners, as well as opportunities to interact directly with scientists.

Field stations tend to be located in more rural areas, where there are fewer zoos, museums, aquariums, and other places of science learning. Yet nearly 80% of the American population live within an hour’s drive of a biological research station. This map can help you identify one near you.

The WK Kellogg Biological Station in Michigan has a bird sanctuary that offers adult classes in botany, ornithology, and nature drawing, as well as volunteer opportunities. There is also a dairy center that hosts open house events where visitors can learn about cutting-edge dairy management and research.

For learners who want to get involved in the science process, engage in a longer-term experiment, or participate as a family, Mohonk Preserve in upstate New York is recruiting volunteers to monitor activity and events. bird habitats, record seasonal changes in plants and engage in other Activities.

4. Marine laboratories

Marine laboratories are similar to biological field stations, but are usually located on coasts or other bodies of water.

Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Florida allows visitors to tour its research facilities and equipment, including a close-up view of its underwater vehicle. It also offers citizen science programs and a weekly lecture series on all things ocean science.

In Alaska, the Behind the Scenes program provides adults with an overview of the management skills and science of the Sitka Sound Science Center, such as monitoring the genetic interaction of wild and hatchery salmon. Its flagship event, the Sitka WhaleFest, features scientist-led wildlife cruises, science talks and storytelling. For learners around the world, the center hosts a podcast and offers recorded lessons on how to say the names of local animals in Tlingit, the language of the Sitka tribe.

As people continue to experience the mental and physical benefits of spending more time outdoors, I think it’s important to mitigate the damage this extra activity could have on the environment. These four sites can help anyone learn more about the science behind natural spaces and also how to preserve them.

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