The Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE) provides resources and connections for educators, researchers, evaluators, and other stakeholders in order to build and advance the informal STEM education field. CAISE works in cooperation with the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which funds new approaches to—and understanding of—the design and development of learning opportunities in informal education settings. CAISE is funded by a cooperative agreement between NSF and ASTC.

What is “informal STEM education”?

People of all ages learn in an increasingly wide variety of settings. Formal schooling is only one part of the larger STEM-learning ecosystem that people participate in throughout their lives. When we talk about the field of informal STEM education, we are referring to experiences and contexts that are designed, implemented, and assessed by a community of dedicated, trained professionals. These experiences and settings include:

  • Botanical gardens and nature centers
  • Cyberlearning and gaming contexts
  • Events and festivals
  • Making and tinkering spaces
  • Media (TV, radio, film, social)
  • National, state, and local parks
  • Public libraries
  • Public participation in scientific research programs
  • Science and technology centers and museums
  • Youth, community, and out-of-school time programs
  • Zoos and aquariums

Access a wealth of research and evaluation resources is a free collection of 8,000+ resources that includes project descriptions, research products, and evaluation reports from evidence-based informal STEM learning work supported by Federal, local, and private funders. Register for a membership to share your professional profile with this community and access the full text of more than 2,700 peer-reviewed journals on EBSCO’s Education Source and Communication and Mass Media databases.

Key CAISE resources

  1. Project Planner for ISE and Science Communication. Got an idea for a research project? This tool can help you develop it! Find key resources, explore project examples, and identify possible sources for funding.
  2. Broadening Participation Toolkit. Interested in supporting broadening participation in STEM? These resources are designed for professionals committed to engaging in conversation and reflection about broadening the perspectives represented in STEM.
  3. NSF AISL Proposal Development Resources. Do you want to learn more about the NSF AISL program? Access recorded webinars and presentations from NSF Program Officers, as well as other helpful resources.
  4. What is STEM Identity, Interest, and Engagement? Does your work include designing for, measuring, or thinking about these concepts? Explore this interview series with 35 experts who share their projects, perspectives, resources, and advice.
  5. Science Communication, Public Engagement, and OutreachKey readings, networks, and conferences for scientists and other STEM professionals who want to engage the public.

About the CAISE team

Established in 2007, CAISE includes principal investigator and project director, Jamie Bell, along with core staff housed at ASTC. Co–principal investigators include Kevin Crowley, of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education, Cecilia Garibay of the Chicago-based audience research firm, Garibay Group, and Martin Storksdieck of Oregon State University’s STEM Research Center.

Contact CAISE for more information.

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