Inderscience Publishers

Science centres as learning laboratories: experiences of Heureka, the Finnish Science Centre

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The purpose of this article is to develop further the premise that science centre education is a form of informal learning. The growth of modern science centres can be traced to the resurgence of interest in the West and in the USA in particular following the launch of Sputnik. Similarly, the growth of science centres since the 1990s has clearly been connected to two major developments in society: the crisis of scientific literacy and the visions for the information society. Rapid advances in genetic research and information technology have also created new challenges for the public understanding of science. The role of universities and industry has been crucial in creating the contents of modern science centres such as Heureka, the Finnish Science Centre. Evidence based on four case studies, which describes the motivation of school students visiting science centres, is presented here. The findings suggest that students' situational motivation can be changed to intrinsic motivation by well organised programs linking schools to the informal, open learning environments of science centres. A survey taken among university students attests to the fact that informal learning sources such as science centres seem to have a stronger impact on their academic career choices than has hitherto been realised.

Keywords: informal learning, science centres, motivation, public understanding of science, science education, career choices, Finland

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