Pearson Young Scientists is a multi-year commitment to increase middle and high school students’ understanding of science and sustainability issues, provide them with opportunities to use digital media to explore their own interests around these issues, and encourage them to connect and collaborate with others to develop strategies to change and improve the world around them. The program is based on the idea of an “Academy within an Academy” driven by the interests and initiatives of participating young people. It will take full advantage of the resources and expertise that exist at the Academy, as well as the affordances of digital media tools and practices that are so much are part of the daily lives of young people and are essential to a 21st century education.
Pearson Young Scientists are a group of as many as thirty students (though the pilot will involve far fewer students) drawn from Bay Area middle and high schools who are interested in the natural sciences and are willing to pursue that interest in an informal learning setting. Guided by the Academy’s mission to explore, explain, and protect the natural world, the Pearson Young Scientists program encourages participants to discover what interests them, learn how professionals work in a museum environment, and share what they’ve learned with the museum public and the broader community.
Reinforcing 21st Century Skills, Project Based Learning, and Learning By Doing
Museums across the country are acknowledging that their public missions are changing. Along with schools, and the interests young people develop on their own, museums are critical destinations for authentic interest‐based learning. Digital media practice plays a central role in museum programming by inviting visitors to use cell phones, mobile applications, and social networks to both interact with and participate in the museum going experience. The Pearson Young Scientists program puts 21st century learning in motion in an informal setting. Based on interests they follow to completion and working collaboratively with Pearson Young Scientists colleagues and museum professionals, Pearson Young Scientists participants take on the important role of “designers.” In addition, the Pearson Young Scientists program enlist young people as national leaders by enlisting their help in identifying, curating, creating and ranking content that will support the roll out of common core standards across the country.
The Pearson Young Scientists has three distinct project components that reinforce the idea of authentic work, teaching as learning, and the importance of public presentation.
Apprenticeship – Learning from Professionals
During the apprenticeship phase Pearson Young Scientists work in teams of 3‐4, side by side with museum professionals – Academy fellows, collection managers, interactive exhibit and media designers, marine biologists, public presenters, planetarium production staff, museum educators and naturalists, and others who support the research and public missions of the CAS. Working in various departments over the course of a school year and summer, Pearson Young Scientists teams acquire enough expertise in each area to collaborate on projects with other participants. Most importantly, they do authentic work – research, educational programming, exhibit and interactive design, and media production.
Apprenticeship reinforces the importance of learning by doing, seeing expert practices at work, and developing meaningful relationships with caring adults.
Exhibition Design and Public Awareness Campaigns – Engaging the Public
A portion of the Academy’s educational outreach, web presence, exhibition and planetarium show will focus on earthquake preparedness. In order to be effective, preparedness outreach must be personalized, reasonable, sensitive, and accessible. The Fall/Winter pilot group will explore exhibition practice, combining research with interactions with museum professionals. The larger group of Pearson Young Scientists, who will begin in the Spring of 2012, will extend the work of the pilot group and will both build exhibitions and do public awareness campaigns.