Leap into Science: Cultivating a National Network for Informal Science and Literacy
As part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments, the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program funds innovative research, approaches, and resources for use in a variety of settings. This project will develop a national infrastructure of state and regional partnerships to scale up The Franklin Institute's proven model of Leap into Science, an outreach program that builds the capacity of children (ages 3-10) and families from underserved communities to participate in science where they live. Leap into Science combines children's science-themed books with hands-on science activities to promote life-long interest and knowledge of science, and does so through partnerships with informal educators at libraries, museums, and other out-of-school time providers. Already field-tested and implemented in 12 cities, Leap into Science will be expanded to 90 new rural and urban communities in 15 states, and it is estimated that this expansion will reach more than 500,000 children and adults as well as 2,700 informal educators over four years. The inclusion of marginalized rural communities will provide new opportunities to evaluate and adapt the program to the unique assets and needs of rural families and communities.
The project will include evaluation and learning research activities. Evaluation will focus on: 1) the formative issues that may arise and modifications that may enhance implementation; and 2) the overall effectiveness and impact of the Leap into Science program as it is scaled across more sites and partners. Learning research will be used to investigate questions organized around how family science interest emerges and develops among 36 participating families across six sites (3 rural, 3 urban). Qualitative methods, including data synthesis and cross-case analysis using constant comparison, will be used to develop multiple case studies that provide insights into the processes and outcomes of interest development as families engage with Leap into Science and a conceptual framework that guides future research. This project involves a partnership between The Franklin Institute (Philadelphia, PA), the National Girls Collaborative Project (Seattle, WA), Education Development Center (Waltham, MA), and the Institute for Learning Innovation (Corvallis, OR).