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Visitor Center morphing into ‘free choice’ learning lab

Posted: Wednesday, Jun 20th, 2012

Bill Hanshumaker, a marine science education specialist at Hatfield Marine Science Center, shows part of a new prototype wave tank exhibit under construction at the center. This is part of numerous changes in converting the center into a free-choice learning laboratory using funds from a five-year, $2.6 million National Science Foundation grant. (Photo by Terry Dillman)
SOUTH BEACH - Folks familiar with the exhibits at Oregon State University (OSU)’s Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) will find a changing landscape in the visitor section. The initial phase of work to establish a high-tech free-choice learning lab is underway, beginning with the addition of three wave tanks in one big corner of the main exhibit area.

“This is the first component of the National Science Foundation (NSF) grant we received six months ago,” said Mark Farley, and Oregon Sea Grant education specialist, who along with Shawn Rowe, HMSC’s acting marine education and visitor programming director, is helping the science center continue to lead the way in free-choice learning research.

Free-choice learning is the art and science of learning outside of a school setting. Most folks, say OSU educators, gain most of their knowledge about science not from school, but through free-choice learning. It’s about folks deciding what, where, when, how - and if - they want to learn on their own throughout their lifetimes. The term encompasses anything from watching a nature show on television to researching the Internet about a health issue to reading about a topic of interest or visiting places like HMSC, where Rowe has specialized in free-choice learning since arriving there in June 2004 as a marine educator and learning specialist.

For the complete article see the 06-20-2012 issue.

Click here to view the 06-20-2012 E-Edition containing the rest of this article.

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