While the United States remains the world hub of science and technology capacity, its dominance is being challenged by the fast growth of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) talent in Asia and other parts of the developing world.

Currently, the increase of students pursuing studies and careers in STEM lags. The Role of Informal Science in the State Education Agenda looks at a type of innovation that complements other important initiatives.

Informal science education—which largely takes place outside the classroom at museums, science centers and other institutions—is an often overlooked tool that can help states achieve their goals. Activities for informal science education include: sustained student learning beyond the classroom; limited-duration programs that compliment classroom learning; teacher professional development programs; and bringing resources to the classroom and student.

To help states make informal science a part of their state STEM agenda, governors should:

  • Explicitly include informal science education on their agenda of actions to improve STEM literacy and proficiency among the state’s youth;
  • Continue to support quality informal science programs in the state such as those offered by museums and science centers;
  • Encourage districts to support more project-based STEM learning in afterschool environments; and
  • Encourage the governor’s STEM council or state education agency to oversee the creation of an on-line catalogue of informal science activities offered throughout the state and a compendium of program evaluations.