A range of sources support science learning, including the formal education system, libraries, museums, nature and Science Centres, aquariums and zoos, botanical gardens and arboretums, television programs, film and video, newspapers, radio, books and magazines, the Internet, community and health organizations, environmental organizations, and conversations with friends and family. This study examined the impact of one single part of this infrastructure, a Science Centre.
This study asked two questions. First, who in Los Angeles (L.A.) has visited the California Science Centre (CSC) and what factors best describe those who have and those who have not visited? Second, does visiting the CSC impact public science understanding, attitudes, and behaviours and if so, in what ways? Two random telephone surveys of L.A. county adults 18 years of age and over (n = 832; n = 1,008) were conducted; one in 2000, shortly after the opening of the totally redesigned and rebuilt CSC and one in 2009, roughly a decade after opening. Samples were drawn from five racially, ethnically, and socio-economically diverse communities generally representative of greater L.A. Results suggest that the CSC is having an important impact on the science literacy of greater L.A. More than half of residents have visited the CSC since its opening in 1998 and self-report data indicate that those who have visited believe that it strongly influenced their science and technology understanding, attitudes, and behaviours.
Importantly, CSC visitors are broadly representative of the general population of greater L.A. including individuals from all races and ethnicities, ages, education, and income levels with some of the strongest beliefs of impact expressed by minority and low-income individuals. The use of a conceptual “marker” substantiates these conclusions and suggests that the impact of the CSC might even be greater than indicated by the mostly self-report data reported here.