The Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE) provides resources and connectivity for educators, researchers, evaluators, and other stakeholders in order to build and advance the informal STEM education field.

CAISE works in cooperation with the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which funds new approaches to—and evidence-based understanding of—the design and development of learning opportunities for the public in informal education settings.

What is “informal STEM education”?

People of all ages learn science in an increasingly wide variety of ways. Formal schooling is only one part of the larger STEM-learning ecosystem that people participate in throughout their lives. When we talk about the field of informal STEM education, we are referring to experiences and settings that are designed, implemented, and assessed by a community of dedicated, trained practitioners. These experiences and settings include:

  • Botanical gardens and nature centers
  • Cyberlearning and gaming community
  • Events and festivals
  • Making and tinkering spaces
  • Media (TV, radio, film, social)
  • Parks
  • Public libraries
  • Science and technology centers and museums
  • Youth, community, and out-of-school time programs
  • Zoos and aquariums

Access a wealth of research and evaluation resources

The cornerstone of CAISE’s work is InformalScience.org, a free collection of 8,000+ resources that includes project descriptions, research products, and evaluation reports from quality, evidence-based informal STEM learning work supported by a diversity of Federal, local, and private funders. Register for a free membership to access to the full text of more than 2,700 peer-reviewed journals on EBSCO’s Education Source and Communication and Mass Media databases.

Key CAISE Resources
  1. Project Planner for ISE and Science Communication. Got an idea for a project? This tool can help develop your project or collaboration, see examples, and find funding.
  2. Broadening Perspectives on Broadening Participation Toolkit. Designed to support professionals and staff leaders as they reflect on and strengthen their efforts to broaden participation in STEM.
  3. Science Communication, Public Engagement, and OutreachKey readings, networks, and conferences for scientists and other STEM professionals who want to engage the public.
  4. What is STEM Identity, Interest, and Engagement? If you are designing for, measuring, or thinking about these concepts as part of your work, explore this interview series with 35 experts who share their projects, perspectives, resources, and advice.
  5. NSF AISL Proposal Development Resources. Access recorded webinars and presentations from NSF Program Officers, as well as other helpful resources.

About the CAISE team

Established in 2007, CAISE includes Principal Investigator and Project Director, Jamie Bell, along with core staff housed at ASTC. Co–principal Investigators include Kevin Crowley of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education, Cecilia Garibay of the Chicago-based audience research firm, Garibay Group, and Martin Storksdieck of Oregon State University’s STEM Research Center. For more information, contact caise@informalscience.org

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