Reaching the Crowd with Science & Engineering Informal Education

Brought to you by
ACS Science & the Congress Project

A congressional briefing
coordinated with the office of Senator Durbin (D-IL)
and Honorary Co-Hosts:
Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)
and The STEM Education Caucus with Co-Chairs
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) and Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL)


Science, engineering, technology, and mathematics (STEM) education and communication is vital to ensuring a competitive workforce and literate electorate. While formal education is critical, informal programming serves to captivate and retain interest in STEM topics and skillsets. Examples of informal venues and approaches span science/engineering festivals and thematic outreach, museums and science/technology centers, and mass media offerings from children’s shows to “infotainment” in both reality and fiction (e.g. MythBusters, The Big Bang Theory). This panel, all experienced in informal STEM education and communication, will discuss approaches that can support and actualize STEM policies.

Audio from April 26, 2012


Speaker Bios & Presentations

Martin Storksdieck, Ph.D., is the director of the Board on Science Education at the National Research Council in Washington, DC. He oversees studies that address a wide range of issues related to science education and science learning, and provides evidence-based advice to decision-makers in policy, academia and educational practice. His research focused on what and how we learn when we do so voluntarily (informal or free-choice learning), and how learning is connected to our behaviors, identities and beliefs. This includes the role of personal perspectives in science learning, particularly related to controversial topics such as climate change or evolution, and how connections between school-based and out-of-school learning can create and sustain lifelong interest in (science) learning. Dr. Storksdieck’s research also focused on the role of science-based professionals and science hobbyists in communicating their passions to a broader public. Before joining the NRC, he served as director of project development and senior researcher at the non-profit Institute for Learning Innovation. Dr. Storksdieck also was a science educator with a planetarium in Germany, where he developed shows and programs on global environmental change; served as editor, host, and producer for a weekly environmental news broadcast; and worked as an environmental consultant specializing in local environmental management systems.

Diane Bunce, Ph.D.

Diane Bunce, Ph.D., is a Professor of Chemistry at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC where she specializes in teaching the “chemistry phobic” student populations in nursing and non-science majors’ chemistry courses. Her research focuses on investigating student learning in chemistry and the mismatch that often occurs between how we teach chemistry and the way the human brain operates. Dr. Bunce has served as an author for the American Chemical Society’s high school chemistry textbook ChemCom and the college level textbook for nonscience majors, Chemistry in Context. She has also served as the Feature Editor/Associate Editor of the Chemical Education research feature of the Journal of Chemical Education for 14 years. Dr. Bunce is the editor of two books on chemical education research, Nuts and Bolts of Chemical Education Research and Investigating Classroom Myths through Research on Teaching and Learning. She is the recipient of the 2012 American Chemical Society George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education and the 2001 American Chemical Society’s Helen Free Award for Public Outreach. Dr. Bunce also believes in teaching chemistry to anyone whenever a teachable moment occurs and is not beyond traveling with easy science experiments in her purse!

James Bell

James Bell, was appointed Project Director and Principal Investigator of the Center for Advancement in Informal Science Education (CAISE) in October 2010. CAISE is a National Science Foundation-funded resource center for informal science education professionals based at the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) in Washington, DC. Mr. Bell has 25 years of experience in informal science education as a program developer, researcher, evaluator and administrator. He has held leadership positions at the Exploratorium in San Francisco and Petrosains: the Discovery Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and served as a consultant to the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Science Media Group and TERC in Cambridge, Massachusetts and the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. Mr. Bell has also recently been a visiting scholar at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out of School Environments.

Bill Nye

Bill Nye scientist, engineer, comedian, author, and inventor, is a man with a mission: to help foster a scientifically literate society, to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes our world work. Mr. Nye holds a Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering, first taking him to Seattle to work at Boeing after graduation. There he began to combine his love of science with his flair for comedy as an engineer by day and a stand-up comic by night, culminating in “Bill Nye the Science Guy®”. Working with fellow KING-TV alumni Jim McKenna and Erren Gottlieb, Mr. Nye made a number of award-winning shows, including the show he became so well known for, “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” which won 18 Emmys, including 7 for Mr. Nye in writing, performing, and producing. In between creating the shows, he wrote five kids’ books about science, including his latest title, “Bill Nye’s Great Big Book of Tiny Germs.” For the last few years, Mr. Nye has served as Vice President of The Planetary Society, the world’s largest space-interest group, and is now its Chief Executive Officer. He holds three Honorary Doctorate degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Goucher College, and Johns Hopkins.

Lawrence Bock

Lawrence Bock is a serial entrepreneur who has founded, co-founded or financed the early stage growth of 40 companies in the life and physical sciences from inception to achieving an aggregate market capitalization in excess of $30 billion. He was the inspiration and is the Executive Director of the USA Science & Engineering Festival which is the world’s largest science festival. He earned his B.A. in Biochemistry from Bowdoin College and his MBA in Finance from UCLA.

Related Information

Board on Science Education, Center for Education, The National Academies

Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC)

Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE)

  • http://caise.insci.org/
  • An Informal Science Education (ISE) Evidence Wiki, which is a growing source of articles that provide evidence for what we know about how people of all ages learn in informal STEM learning settings-
    http://iseevidencewiki.org/index.php/Main_Page
  • An Informal Commons website that searches 9 other ISE sites to provide professionals with evaluation materials, research papers, exhibition reviews and hands-on activities- www.informalcommons.org

Catholic University of America

The Planetary Society

USA Science & Engineering Festival

Journal of Chemical Education (A Publication of the American Chemical Society)

  • Decay of Student Knowledge in Chemistry by D.M. Bunce, J.R. VandenPlas, and C. Soulis J. Chem. Educ., 2011, 88 (9), 1231-1237; http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ed100683h
  • How Long Can Students Pay Attention in Class? A Study of Student Attention Decline Using Clickers by D.M. Bunce, E.A. Flens, and K.Y. Neiles. J. Chem. Educ., 2010, 87 (12), 1438-1443; http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ed100409p

Online activities for informal science and math