Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Research Update: Data Collection and Prototyping

The Museum is collaborating with Brown University on two major National Science Foundation-funded projects (award #1223777, 1420548). In the first project – Learning About Learning – Museum researchers are investigating how to make kids’ learning through play visible. In the second, researchers are examining the role of exploration and explanation in children’s causal learning. Museum researcher Suzy Letourneau shared this project update.

Since the start of the year, the Learning About Learning team has been prototyping two new activities that aim to reveal the learning that happens through play:
  • Photo Mission: In February and March, we challenged caregivers to capture photos of their children problem-solving while they played at the Museum.  The idea was to focus families’ attention (and lenses) on kids’ powerful thinking and learning.
  • Play Memories: Remember playing dress-up or building a tree house as a child? In March and April, we are inviting adults and kids to record their favorite memories of playing – past or present – and reflect together on the power of play.

In both activities, Museum researchers invite visitors to try the activities and then collect their feedback through a short interview. Our prototyping helps us understand how Museum activities can encourage families to think about the ways that play can support learning – while still being fun, too! (Click here for previous Learning About Learning blog updates, and visit the Museum’s website to learn more about the project.)

The research team is also embarking on a new three-year project in collaboration with Brown University and two other university/museum teams: the University of California, Santa Cruz and Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose, and the University of Texas at Austin and the Thinkery.  Together, the three teams will investigate how open-ended exploration and parent-child explanations might affect children’s causal learning in the museums.

In the next few months, researchers will be observing how families use different exhibits and will ask permission to video record as they play together.  The videos will help the teams learn more about how children and their caregivers naturally explore how objects in museum exhibits work, and how they explain their ideas to one another.  Studying learning in a busy environment like the Museum can be tricky, and this initial part of the project will help the teams think together about the questions we’ll be asking and how we can best learn about the ways that museum exhibits, educators and caregivers can support children’s learning.

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