Zoo, Kew and you

London museums are taking part in a global project to stimulate interest in science through informal learning.

The Science Museum, London Zoo, Kew Gardens and the Natural History Museum are joining the Centre for Informal Learning of Science based at King's College to find how best to use their resources.

It is part of a $10 million programme funded by the National Science Foundation in the United States. The London Centre was established at the start of thisyear with a pound;1.8 million grant over five years. Collaborators inAmerica include the University of California in Santa Cruz andthe Exploratorium in SanFrancisco.

The London Centre is headed by Richard Duschl, professor ofscience education at King's.

He says: "There are enormous opportunities for learning about science in informal out-of-school environments such as museums. What we're trying to do isbuild a bridge and make itpossible for teachers and schools to tap into that."

With his two co-principals, Jonathan Osborne and Christian Heath, Duschl is recruiting 14 students to research how the bridge between schools and informal scientific learning outside the classroom will be built.

He believes the National Science Foundation chose London because King's has a tradition in similar research through itsScience and TechnologyEducation Unit and because the city is so richly endowed with museums.

The initial batch of students will all be American but King's hopes to secure further funding to recruit British students. British schools and teachers will be among the chief beneficiaries of the centre's research.

Early projects include a study in conjunction with the National History Museum of what school groups get from visits to the main museum and its new Investigate space. The exhibit is designed to foster a spirit of scientific enquiry and works in conjunction with the national curriculum.

"But teachers will need assistance in how to feed it back into the classroom," Duschl says. "That's where our research will come in." Another project involves building a "web-based scientific learning environment" in partnership with London Zoo and the Institute of Zoology, aimed at key stage 3 students.

"A visit to the zoo doesn't have to begin and end when you enter and leave the gates," Duschl says. The project will be built around the notion of zoos as centres of conservation and deal with how endangered species can best be protected.

For more information, visit www.kcl.ac.uk Email: cils@exploratorium.ed

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you