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Keywords:

  • urban education;
  • middle school science;
  • informal learning;
  • gender and science;
  • identity;
  • science learning

Abstract

This article presents an analysis of the longitudinal consequences of out-of-school science learning with a conceptual framework that connects the intentions of youth to their participation in science. The focus is on one girl's science activities in her home and hobby pursuits from fourth to seventh grade to create an empirical account of how youth gain access to scientific knowledge and science practices in informal learning environments. The analysis uses fieldnotes, videotape recordings, and transcripts centered on the epistemic, social, and material resources related to learning in biology. The focal participant of the study, Penelope, engaged with animal activities in her home and hobby pursuits in ways that overlapped scientific practice. She (1) engaged in observational inquiry, (2) used media to understand animal behavior, (3) tinkered with feeding to keep her animals healthy, and (4) manipulated her animals and animal-related artifacts to create routines and safe indoor habitats. Penelope used these four competencies to gain access to new science learning situations in school and afterschool settings. Yet, as she participated in science practices around animals, she sought to be recognized as uninterested in science. Instead, she used her talk and activities to be recognized in animal caretaking roles in the settings that mattered to her. Penelope's behavior of distancing herself from science while still seeking out experiences to learn about animal biology shows that recognition work is a complex negotiation between aspects of one's self and of science. Implications to theories are drawn related to science education and recognition work. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 49: 597–630, 2012