How do we introduce trans-science issues into museum learning programs?

Sunday, 15 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Tatsuya Ogawa, Chiba City Museum of Science, Chiba-shi,Chiba, Japan
Backgrounds: In the modern society, citizens encounter problems which can be asked of science and yet which cannot be answered by science (Weinberg, 1972), and they need to consider these “trans-science” problems on their own. Given the fact, science museums, as institutions for informal education, practice many educational programs for citizens to acquire scientific literacy, but there is doubt on the effectiveness for thinking such trans-science issues. What types of learning programs can be effective?  Our research and practice are taken as a part of the research projects “Science Literacy Passport β (Y. Ogawa et al., AAAS, 2014, 2013)”. In the project at National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, Y. Ogawa has developed an interactive online database system for two objectives. The first is to establish a museum utilization model in which science literacy is fostered in knowledge-circulating society. The second is to establish an interactive lifelong learning system as a new function of museums. In this database system, we try to design the programs for the second objective, and these programs answer to the effectiveness of learning programs that citizens can consider trans-science issues. Methods: As educators of  a natural history museum and a science center located close-knit to the community , we practiced two topics of trans-science programs: food poisoning and avian influenza. These themes were chosen due to the familiarities to our daily lives and variation in stakeholders. Both programs were organized into two parts: the first part, participants study scientific knowledge. They are free to ask any questions to the guest speaker (researcher or specialist of science) regarding the topic. The second part is discussion time for all participants including the guest speaker with the facilitators, who introduces open-ended discussions which lead to active communication on the floor. In addition, post survey is taken a few days after on the participants’ actions after the programs. Results: According to our post  survey, our practices indicate three effective outcomes; [1] participants considered such trans-science issues through multilateral aspects, [2] open-ended discussion enabled citizens to think trans-science topics thorough the questions which are conceived through their interests, [3] open-ended discussion also led to participants' continuous thinking after the programs. Conclusions: These results provide new insight to our understanding for roles of science museums. In addition to the traditional role to fostering citizens' scientific literacy, creating opportunity for citizens to discuss trans-science issues can be a new role of science museums. Furthermore, this type of learning can be improved by marketing through the existing database system, for example, matching needs and market segmentation for potential participants. These “innovation” of program designing and information providing can be the key for future educational activities in science museum.