Project: Center for Informal Learning and Schools (CILS)

Authors: Jenifer Helms, Mark St. John, Anita Smith

With assistance of: Laura Stokes, Becky Carroll, Dawn Robles

Type: Report

Publication: November 2008

Strengthening the Capacity of Informal Science Education as a Contributor to Education Improvement: A Reflective Assessment of the Center For Informal Learning And Schools (CILS) (pdf, 26 pages)


The Center for Informal Learning and Schools (CILS) was funded for five years, 2002-2007, as part of the National Science Foundation’s Centers for Learning and Teaching (CLT) initiative. CILS involved three partner institutions: The Exploratorium in San Francisco, the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC), and King’s College in London, England (KCL). The broad aim of CILS was to strengthen the capacity of informal education research and practice to contribute to educational improvement through fostering connections among practitioners and researchers in both formal and informal settings.

Inverness Research served as the external evaluator for CILS. We brought a perspective to this role derived from 20 years of research on a variety of projects designed to bring the unique assets of informal science institutions to bear on efforts to improve science education in the formal system. Our observations over time suggest that informal science institutions are often important contributors to the improvement of science teaching and learning.

This report draws from data gathered over the project’s five years. Our purpose is to assess the ways in which and the extent to which CILS built critical capacities in the domain of informal science education. We think this assessment, and lessons learned from CILS’ work, help make the case for ongoing investments in the development of informal science as a field and, ultimately, in the formation of a lasting infrastructure for educational improvement. We envision this report as being of interest to education leaders in informal science institutions, university researchers with an interest in learning and teacher development in informal settings, and funders who see the need for ongoing development in this domain.

Intended Audience

Science Educators, Museum Educators, Professional Development Providers, Teachers, Reform Leaders, Funders, and general public.


Any and all errors are claimed by the authors of this document, Inverness Research, Inc.

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