The Importance of Informal Education
Informal education has for a long time been considered very controversial in the education world and looked upon as just for entertainment. Informal education is commonly defined as learning that takes outside of formal school settings. Informal education can be things such as field trips to science centers, aquariums, museums, zoos, or planetariums. All of the following places are considered to be "informal settings" because they are all outside the classroom area. An educational curator at a small museum in Jackson Hole, Wyoming is as much an informal educator as a director of educational programs for the Smithsonian Institution. Often informal educators are retired K-12 teachers that have received additional training and have therefore been thrust into a more prominent role to teaching the nation’s students about mathematics and science. Many people look at field trips as pointless and unbeneficial to students at any age. But many will argue that informal education is only helpful when students have prior knowledge of the subject from formal education before going out of the classroom to learn. The role of prior knowledge in learning is considered of utmost importance in designing effective educational programs. Informal education is very common with science subjects. Most students cannot understand scientific principles by reading out of a book because textbooks and paper handouts can be very dry and boring. Going on field trips to informal settings reinforces what students learn from their teachers and help them understand the topics better.
Public understanding of science is considered to be one of the most important issues facing educators in today’s technological world. It is seen as so important because the field of science has achieved so much in culture; it affects everyone’s lives, and even influences public policy decisions. Another reason understanding of science is so important is because the public believes that there is a large gap between itself and the understanding of learning science. It is vital that science be taught in schools so students can understand the world around them. This is a very difficult task for even the most experienced teachers alone, which is a reason informal education is needed.
Teachers can teach from a book, give paper handouts, and show videos of experiments happening, but for students to be able to see scientific processes happening before their eyes lets them recall what they learned in class and can implement it into their everyday lives. For educational programs in classrooms or parks alike the challenge "is to make science information relevant to the lives of the public and explain scientific findings in ways that the public can use.
There are three major themes regarding informal education. The first is curiosity or intrinsically motivated learning. Intrinsically motivated learning is the wanting to learn that comes from within a student, not from...