In the fall of 2019, OLLI @Berkeley along with two campus partners — the Fung Fellowship for Wellness and Technology Innovations and the Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS) — were awarded the National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant for Advancing Informal STEM Learning: Investigating Measurement of STEM Engagement and Advocacy in Older Adults.
Collaboration Spans Campus & Generations
“We are thrilled by this campus partnership and the NSF’s recognition of the value of learning about, and engaging with, older adults,” said Susan Hoffman, director of OLLI, upon learning of the award. “We think of our members as pioneers in the world of lifelong learning, and it seems right that they should be involved in such formative work.”
This type of campus collaboration — one that spans generations and areas of expertise — is rare, though hopefully not for long. OLLI, the Fung Fellowship and LHS spent months working together on the proposal that showcases their unique strengths and roles.
What is Informal Learning?
Little research has been done to date on the impact of informal STEM learning on older adults. Informal learning generally means the sometimes deliberate, often spontaneous, always creative gathering of knowledge outside of traditionally structured learning environments.
The grant’s 18-month pilot study focuses on developing and validating outcome metrics used in an informal intergenerational learning experience involving human-centered design. During the learning experience, OLLI members will attend a human design workshop and then participate with Fung Fellowship undergraduates to brainstorm, ideate and prototype solutions to a design challenge.
Data from the metrics developed and used during the learning experience will help researchers better understand how informal STEM learning impacts older adults — insights that could ultimately be tapped to compel greater STEM advocacy and civic engagement.
Contributing to the Future
“OLLI members want to be challenged,” said Hoffman. “They want to feel the spark and exhilaration that comes from discovering something new. If we can help ignite that in older adults today, and in those who will grow into older adults tomorrow, this’ll be so worth it. I can’t wait to see what we learn.”