Sex differences in science museum exhibit attraction

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Abstract

This study examines the relative attraction of hands-on, interactive science museum exhibits for females and males. Studies have demonstrated that such exhibits can be effective learning experiences for children, with both academic and affective benefits. Other studies have shown that girls and boys do not always experience the same science-related educational opportunities and that, even when they do, they do not necessarily receive the same benefits from them. These early differences can lead to more serious educational and professional disparities later in life. As interactive museum exhibits represent a science experience that is-readily available to both girls and boys, the question arose as to whether they were being used similarly by the two groups as well as by adult women and men. It was found that both girls and boys used all types of exhibits, but that girls were more likely than boys to use puzzles and exhibits focusing on the human body; boys were more likely than girls to use computers and exhibits illustrating physical science principles. However, this was less true of children accompanied by adults (parents) than it was of unaccompanied children on school field trips who roamed the museum more freely.

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