National Science Foundation Deemed Leader in Informal Learning
At the Golden Gate Bridge, a set of exhibits is being built to educate millions of annual visitors on the science and engineering behind the San Francisco landmark. In Washington state, local Girl Scout troop leaders are getting trained to teach children about scientific inquiry. And a giant-screen film titled "Tornado Alley" that debuted in March—and is being accompanied by a comprehensive outreach program—aims to help audiences explore the science behind severe weather events.
Those disparate enterprises to advance public understanding of science—along with hundreds of others over the years—have been fueled by the federal Informal Science Education program at the National Science Foundation.
Federal agencies have long supplied money and overseen initiatives that support learning outside the classroom. They include the U.S. departments of Energy and Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services. The U.S. Department of Education also supplies some dollars that reach science-focused after-school activities through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program .
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