Learning Environments Research

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 49–62 | Cite as

Learning environments at the margin: Case studies of disenfranchised youth doing science in an aquarium and an after-school program

  • Jrène RahmEmail author
  • Doris Ash
Original Paper


In this article, we explore how two informal educational contexts—an aquarium and an after-school science program—enabled disenfranchised learners to adopt an identity as insiders to the world of science. We tell the stories of four youth, relating what doing science meant to them and how they positioned themselves in relation to science. We contribute to the extensive literature on the value of learning beyond the school walls, yet focus on ethnically and linguistically diverse youth from low-income backgrounds who have often been excluded from such settings. We suggest that such out-of-school settings are particularly important to youth who have few other opportunities to interact with and relate to science in positive ways.


Disenfranchised youth Informal science learning Learning and identity Qualitative case studies Sociocultural-historical theory 



The authors wish to thank all the youth and their families for their participation in the research projects. Research in the Seymour Marine Discovery Center was supported by NSF REC grant # 0133662 to Doris Ash. Research on Scientifines was supported in part by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Fonds de recherche sur la société de la culture de Québec to Jrène Rahm.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculté des sciences de l’éducation, Département de psychopédagogie et d’andragogieUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Education, 251 Social Science 1University of California Santa CruzSanta CruzUSA

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