Informal learning is the creation of knowledge in non-teacher-centered spaces. These spaces include outdoor facilities, museums, the internet, and learning by means other than from teachers, such as learning from friends, family and mentors. Thus, informal learning is done in any other space or by means that is not a formal classroom where delivery of information is provided by a teacher. It is estimated that as much as 70% of an individual’s knowledge is acquired through informal learning. Informal learning emphasizes learning by doing.
Earth has about a dozen major terrestrial biomes. We know virtually nothing about how soundscapes vary across time and space within the major biomes of the world. However, there is a plethora of ecological theories, many from biogeography, community ecology and landscape ecology, which suggest to soundscape ecologists how soundscapes might predictably vary in composition and intensity within a day and over the course of a year. Purdue’s Discovery Park Center for Global Soundscapes will attempt to characterize soundscape composition and dynamics for each of the planet’s biomes over the next 5 years. Each year we will focus on a new biome to study doing so using the fundamental knowledge already amassed by ecologists and naturalists over the last few centuries.
At the Center for Global Soundscapes, we have several projects that focus on informal STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) learning, including such spaces as science museums, theaters and outdoor environmental summer camps. These informal STEM learning resources blend traditional display technologies and current technologies that include interactive links to internet resources like POVs (point-of-view) of “scientists in action”, soundscape scenes (videos of different biomes that include representative soundscape recordings), in-the-field “webisodes” (short lectures) by scientists, links to social media sites and citizen scientist contributions. Our portable museum display booths are designed to be placed in high traffic areas around campus and other venues and features CGS work in a diverse array of biomes (deserts, rainforests, grasslands and estuaries).
We are developing a curricular kit, called YELLs (Your Ecosystem Listening Labs) that can be deployed in any informal learning setting (summer camps, museums, city parks). YELLs are configured as games, structured listening exercises, and multi-day research projects. They can be used as individual learning exercises (< 1 hour) or used as a package (5-day summer camp) that places youth (grades 5-8) in the role of a scientist or engineer where a task is provided to a group to solve. The packages step students through the entire scientific method, from observation through conclusions, so that content and the practice of science are simultaneously learned.
We are developing an Interactive Theater Show for the Big Screen environment that utilizes the advanced infrastructure of IMAX and Domed Science Theaters and science education staff at museums. This ITS will teach youth about the physics and biology of sound, ecology and geography, and the way that scientists use sound to study biological and geophysical systems on earth. Students will also be shown how scientists work in a variety of biomes and bring data back to advanced computer labs and data centers, emphasizing that the future of science often involves “big data”.