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Learning about learning: NEW 'INFORMAL LEARNING NETWORK' IN THE WORKS

Kick-off meeting set for Oct. 16

This summer, Denice Blair Leach joined Michigan State University as an educator at the MSU Museum and in the College of Education's Teacher Education Department. She is stationed at the busy intersection where  teachers teach and learners learn. This fall, she is getting ready to help launch an Informal Learning Network at MSU -- and teachers and learners just might get better at both.
 
Informal Learning
The new organization for MSU faculty members, academic specialists, staff members and students will set the stage for collaborations, research projects and outreach efforts aimed at improving informal learning in a variety of settings. Informal learning, also called free-choice or out-of-school learning, takes place outside of classrooms -- in  museums, science and cultural centers,  at gardens, zoos and parks, at community events, and after school programs and more. 
 
And informal learning can happen in any discipline -- the sciences, mathematics, engineering, technology, the arts, humanities, social science, health, business, and others -- so that makes a large and diverse school like Michigan State University the perfect place to take advantage of all these learning opportunities.
 
"Many people are interested in encouraging students' deeper engagement with what is learned in the classroom by pairing formal and informal means," explains Blair Leach, "whether that's going to a museum, volunteering in an area related to classroom studies, or even surfing the web to learn more about a particular subject."
 
People can explore what interests them and gets them thinking, doing and creating in ways that make sense to them and keep them ignited, says Blair Leach.  So strengthening lifelong learning is another key area of focus. 
 
"The time most people spend learning in classroom settings over the lifetime is relatively short compared to the time they spend outside the classroom.  Because so much of our learning is informal, exploring ways to help learners improve their experiences is important," adds Blair Leach, who sees the Informal Learning Network as a great way for people to increase the visibility of informal education research, teaching, and outreach work across campus. 
 
"There is a ready and growing awareness among many funding agencies and foundations of the importance of informal learning, including in the STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] disciplines,"says Gary Morgan, director of the MSU Museum. "We are confident the new network will encourage and facilitate cross-disciplinary discussions between faculty and students that will generate ideas for quality research projects that can attract grants and sponsorships."
 
The Informal Learning Network kick-off meeting is set for Tuesday, Oct. 16, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. at the MSU Museum. (Refreshments will be served.)
 
For more information, contact Denice Blair Leach at the MSU Museum or ilnmsu [at] msu.edu. Also visit the Informal Learning Network website for news, resources, and a blog.