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  1. Learner-centered interactions, whether in formal or informal settings, are by their nature unscripted and require both the educator and learner to improvise. In fact, improvisation skills have been recognized as beneficial and applied in a variety of professional development training programs (including science communication, organizational development in university administration, teambuilding and leadership in business, and communication skills in medical education); yet, their inclusion in educator training has been limited. MOXI and UCSB partnered with a professional actor and theater instructor (third author of this paper) to implement applied improvisation training to support informal educators' skills development. After four years ofmore »incorporating applied improvisation training in our facilitation training program, we have found that the basic skills of listening, observing, and responding that are critical in learner-centered education are taught effectively through the well-developed, practical, and fun exercises of improvisational theater. In this article, we describe our applied improvisation training and how it builds skills pertinent to implementing learner-centered facilitation, how graduates of our training program connected applied improvisation training to their facilitation, and how other institutions can incorporate it into preparing educators for working in either informal or formal settings.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  2. Interactive science centers are in a unique position to provide opportunities for engineering education through K-12 field trip programs. However, field trip programs are often disconnected from students’ classroom learning, and many K-12 teachers lack the engineering education background to make that connection. Engineering Explorations is a 3-year project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) program Research in the Formation of Engineers (RFE) (EEC-1824856 and EEC-1824859). The primary goal of this project is to develop and test engineering education modules that link K-12 students’ classroom learning to field trip experiences in an interactive science museum, increasing student learning andmore »extending the field trip experiences. Each Engineering Explorations module consists of one 50-minute field trip program completed at an interactive science center and curriculum for three 50-minute lessons to be implemented by the classroom teacher before (2 lessons) and after (1 lesson) the field trip program. Our paper will present both development and research outcomes.« less
  3. Engineering Explorations are curriculum modules that engage children across contexts in learning about science and engineering. We used them to leverage multiple education sectors (K–12 schools, museums, higher education, and afterschool programs) across a community to provide engineering learning experiences for youth, while increasing local teachers’ capacity to deliver high-quality engineering learning opportunities that align with school standards. Focusing on multiple partners that serve youth in the same community provides opportunities for long-term collaborations and programs developed in response to local needs. In a significant shift from earlier sets of standards, the Next Generation Science Standards include engineering design, withmore »the goal of providing students with a foundation “to better engage in and aspire to solve the major societal and environmental challenges they will face in decades ahead” (NGSS Lead States 2013, Appendix I). Including engineering in K–12 standards is a positive step forward in introducing students to engineering; however, K–12 teachers are not prepared to facilitate high-quality engineering activities. Research has consistently shown that elementary teachers are not confident in teaching science, especially physical science, and generally have little knowledge of engineering (Trygstad 2013). K–12 teachers, therefore, will need support. Our goal was to create a program that took advantage of the varied resources across a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education ecosystem to support engineering instruction for youth across multiple contexts, while building the capacity of educators and meeting the needs of each organization. Specifically, we developed mutually reinforcing classroom and field trip activities to improve student learning and a curriculum to improve teacher learning. This challenging task required expertise in school-based standards, engineering education, informal education, teacher professional development, and classroom and museum contexts.« less