What is Informal Science Education?

ISEA Texas defines informal science education as providing unique learning environments that increase appreciation and understanding of science, mathematics, and technology and their applications through voluntary and often self-directed experiences for individuals of all ages and backgrounds.

Learn more about ISEA in ourISEA_101“!

ISE Association Overview

Recognizing the important role informal institutions play in supporting students’ learning outside of the formal school setting, the Texas SSI has taken unique steps to explore a variety of science-rich resources within local communities which offer families and schools extended learning opportunities.

The Informal Science Education Action Team was formed in the summer of 1996, bringing together informal science educators – representing museums, zoos and aquariums, state parks, and nature centers – with members from the formal education arena – including classroom teachers, school administrators, regional education service centers, university systems, and parent-family organizations. It is a learning community that represents the state’s regional and cultural diversity.

In January 1999, the action team changed to an association by being accepted as an affiliate to the Science Teachers Association of Texas (STAT). The primary focus of the ISE initiative is increasing the capacity of “science-rich” informal institutions to support and align with the on-going K-12 systemic reform efforts in Texas. The association works to define roles ISE institutions can play to support all communities in strengthening science and mathematics for children, and increasing their access to informal science education resources throughout the state.

ISE Association Goals

  • strengthen the emerging ISE network within the state.
  • identify models of informal/formal collaborations.
  • encourage participation of Texas organizations in ISE activities at national and local levels.
  • expand the community of learners using informal science facilities, with emphasis on traditionally underrepresented groups.
  • increase access to unique ISE resources such as exhibits and collections, staff expertise in context-based learning, and neutral arenas for learning.
  • bridge the gap between informal science institutions and classrooms by delivering programs aligned with the TEKS, and supporting the efforts of teachers.
  • maintain the unique strengths of informal learning environments.
  • share successful strategies for ISE partnerships and collaborations with higher education institutions.
  • encourage collaboration between regional education stakeholders and business partners seeking to expand the network of learning communities.

Work To-Date


  • explored and processed information on current national, state and local models of informal-formal linkages.
  • studied ongoing reform efforts within the formal education community.
  • identified focus areas that represented the strongest opportunities for bridging the gap between schools and informal science resources.
  • investigated existing and potential roles for informal institutions throughout the state.
  • studied issues related to increasing institutional capacity and systemic infrastructure in order to develop successful mechanisms for accessing key resources.


  • translated findings into recommended guidelines and a collection of model programs to be disseminated statewide.
  • conducted first statewide conference for ISE providers.
  • began offering professional development opportunities to informal science educators for TEKS implementation at the state level and organizational sessions to ISE at the national level.


  • established an affiliation with STAT (Science Teachers Association of Texas).
  • conducted a second statewide conference for Informal Science Providers.
  • developed a process to collect success stories of informal/formal projects and collaborations for future publication.
  • developed a plan to continue work into the new millenium.


  • conduct the third annual statewide conference for Informal Science Education Providers.
  • showcase Informal Science Education Institutions at the Annual Conference for the Advancement of Science Teachers (CAST).
  • publish Texas Success Stories: Using Informal Science Education.
  • offer professional development opportunities to informal educators at the state and national levels.


  • held sixteen statewide conferences to date for Informal Science Education providers.
  • attracted national leaders in the field of informal science as keynote addressees to present at ISEA conferences, such as: John Falk, Martin Storksdieck, Lynn Dierking.
  • showcased Informal Science Education Association institutions at the Annual Conference for the Advancement of Science Teachers (CAST).
  • continued our affiliate partnership with the Science Teachers Association of Texas (STAT).
  • offered professional development opportunities to informal educators at the state and national levels across our members’ informal science sites.
  • contributed to Texas Environmental Literacy Plan
  • represented at Texas Environmental Literacy Summit, held Jan. 2013 in San Antonio, TX

Read all about the 1999 Texas SSI’s Informal Science Initiative here.