Science news stories as boundary objects affecting engagement with science



This paper explores how participating in a program spanning an informal science institution and multiple school sites engaged youth with science in a different way. In particular, teens in the program selected and researched science topics of personal interest, and then authored, revised, and published science news stories about those topics in an authentic publication venue with an outside editor. Through five case studies analyzed according to a sociocultural framework for engagement understood as involving actions, interests and identifications, the authors describe how the news story artifacts became “boundary objects” inhabiting several intersecting social worlds. These boundary objects are often mediated by adults acting as brokers spanning communities. The properties of the news stories that enable them to act as boundary objects include their mutability and shareability as electronic draft documents created in distributed learning environments and responded to by an editor based at a distance, their flexibility in terms of genres for expressing the meaning and importance of science, and their portability across space in the form of print- and web-based publications that are valued by multiple communities. Implications for developing youth identities while fostering participation in critical thinking about science are discussed, along with further research needed on understanding the power of personal connections to health, and the role of brokers. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 51: 315–341, 2014