Family Interactions In A Science Museum: The Potential Of Inquiry To Support Engagement
Parent-child conversations in science museums may support children's interest and understanding of science. Researchers have been investigating programs to optimize parental guidance and deepen families' scientific exploration in museums. Inquiry is an approach to science teaching science that mirrors the scientific method, allowing participants to raise questions about a scientific phenomenon and conduct investigations to answer those questions. In this study, an experimental design was used to test the impact of participation in an inquiry-based activity on families' conversations at six science museum exhibits. Half of the families participated in an inquiry activity before exploring exhibits, and half of the families participated in an inquiry activity after exploring exhibits. Two sets of variables found to be important contributors to parent-child conversation at science museums (i.e., exhibit qualities and individual characteristics) were considered. Results indicated that participation in a guided inquiry activity significantly increased parents' high-quality learning talk, specifically providing explanations and making connections to prior experience. Exhibit qualities and individual characteristics are important considerations for designing and implementing an inquiry intervention. Families talked about the inquiry activity after the visit and applied what they had learned to real-life situations at home. Inquiry activities have the potential to empower parents with tools to help them scaffold children's emerging scientific knowledge during shared activity in a science museum. Implications and future directions are discussed.