Free-Choice Family Learning Experiences At Informal Astronomy Observing Events
"This qualitative study is an exploratory look at family experiences at night time telescope observing events, often called star parties. Four families participated in this study which looked at their expectations, experiences and agendas as well as the roles that identity and family culture played in the negotiation of meaning. Two families who had prior experience with attending star parties were recruited ahead of time and two other families who were first time visitors were recruited on-site at the observing event. Data were collected at two star parties. At each event, one experienced family was paired with an on-site family for the purposes of facilitating conversations about expectations and prior experiences.
The results of this study showed that learning is constantly occurring among families, and that star parties and family culture were mediational means for making meaning. Expectations and agendas were found to affect the families‟ star party experiences and differences were observed between the expectations and experiences of families based on their prior experiences with star parties. These data also showed that family members are actively negotiating their individual and family identities. These families use their cultural history together to make sense of their star party experiences; however, the meaning that families were negotiating was often focused more on developing family and individual identity rather than science content. The families in this study used the star party context as a way to connect with each other, to make sense of their prior experiences, and as raw material for making sense of future experiences."