from each other. In these environments, demonstrating competence often results in a more central role in the learning configuration. For example, as children who grow up in an agricultural society develop greater knowledge and skill, their duties may shift. Feeding animals and cleaning stalls may give way to tending animal wounds and monitoring well-being.
Examples of designed environments include museums, science centers, botanical gardens, zoos, aquariums, and libraries. Artifacts, media, and signage are primarily used to guide the learner’s experience. While these environments are structured by institutions, the nature of the learner’s interaction with the environment is often determined by the individual. Learners enter these environments primarily by choice, either their own personal choice or the choice of an adult (e.g., parent or teacher). Learners also have significant choice in setting their own learning agenda by choosing to attend to only exhibits or aspects of exhibits that align with their interests. Typically, learners’ engagement is short-term and sporadic in the setting, and learning takes place in peer, family, or mentor interactions. However, there is increasing interest in extending the impact of these experiences over time through post-visit web experiences, traveling exhibits, and follow-up mail or e-mail contact.
Examples of after-school and adult programs include summer programs, clubs, science center programs, Elderhostel programs, volunteer groups, and learning vacations. Often program content includes a formal curriculum that is organized and designed to address the concerns of the sponsoring institutions. The curriculum and activities are focused primarily on content knowledge or skills, but they also may focus on attitudes and values and using science to solve applied problems. Activities are often designed to serve those seen to be in need of support, such as economically disadvantaged children and adults. Like designed spaces, individuals most often participate in these activities either by their own choice or the choice of a parent or teacher. They attend programs that align with their interests or needs. Experiences in these environments are typically guided and monitored by a trained facilitator and include opportunities for hands-on, collaborative experiences. The time scale of these learning experiences ranges from being sustained, long-term programs with in-depth engagement to brief, targeted, short-term programs. Assessments are often used, and may affect the participants’ reputation or status in the program, however they are not typically meant to judge individual attainment or progress in comparison to institutional expectations.