The Science Learning+ programme has defined a number of characteristics of informal science learning.

Science learning

  • Takes place outside of the formal curriculum, is non-compulsory and is not formally accredited
  • takes place in a range of settings outside of school – including in museums, science centres, individual’s homes and public spaces
  • inspires and stimulates interest in science
  • generates positive attitudes towards science
  • achieves a more thorough understanding of science
  • can be unstructured, unguided and led by the interests of the individual
  • features ‘learning by stealth’.

However, rather than explicitly focussing on supporting learning, most providers of informal science focus more on making science enjoyable and interesting, and inspiring a general interest in and engagement with science.

What is citizen science?

Citizen science is a form of informal science learning in which people become active participants in science research. Citizen science has been found to increase  science learning and include cognitive, affective, practical and behavioural outcomes.

Citizen science has been shown to:

  • encourage interest in science and the environment as a whole
  • build interest in doing and learning about science
  • increase engagement in environmental activities
  • increase the public understanding of the nature of science, including science inquiry skills such as data collection, analysis, and interpretation
  • increase people’s involvement in environmental stewardship practices.
Find out more about the Enhancing informal learning through citizen science partnership.