Published March 3, 2020
What children think about bending the rules, telling the truth and the futures they imagine can be mysterious to the grownups in their lives. A new series of playful research-based experiments will reveal answers and shed light on how kids learn. “Living Lab to Living Room,” a new collaboration between UB’s Fisher-Price Endowed Early Childhood Research Center (ECRC) and Buffalo’s Explore & More, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Children’s Museum, will share knowledge with families curious to know more.
Student researchers from UB’s Graduate School of Education (GSE) will be on hand on Saturdays from March 7 through April 18, except April 4, to share a series of play experiments with visitors to Explore & More Children's Museum, newly relocated and opened at the city’s Canalside waterfront. Drop-in sessions for children ages 3 to 11 will help parents and caregivers observe their kids’ learning and leave with ideas to practice at home.
“We want to share child development knowledge with parents and caregivers in the community,” said X. Christine Wang, director of ECRC, leader of the “Living Lab to Living Room” project and associate professor in the Department of Learning and Instruction. The main goal is to take child development research out of the academic setting and bring the knowledge to “living room” learning, she said.
This new project is the first of its kind for the North-Campus-based ECRC. Wang was awarded a GSE faculty in residence fellowship to develop this project with her students. Fisher-Price sponsored a research assistant to help with the project work.
“I am very excited,” Wang said. The project reaches important groups: Parents and children, graduate students in the teacher education program and the museum staff. All will benefit from the informal learning in the museum’s welcoming setting, she said.
Eight “Living Lab to Living Room” sessions were developed by graduate students based on child development research. In one example for 3- to 5-year-olds, the student researchers will engage children to recognize changes in perspective. The children will be encouraged to notice how a toy looks different as it moves behind a clear blue screen. Parents can practice the concept at home by pointing out how storybook pictures look different when they are upside down.
These kinds of observations are the beginning of learning how to understand the feelings and perspectives of others. Learning to see what others see is the foundation of empathy, she said.
Learning Lab activities range in approach and age group. A zoo experiment for 3- to 5-year-olds incorporates toy animals to look at a child’s understanding of a sequence of events. A conversation about bending the rules will help 2- to 9-year-olds assess the difference between social norms and moral “right and wrong” transgressions.
The Explore & More Children’s Museum welcomed the opportunity to share child development knowledge with parents and provide tools for parents to practice at home.
“Kids learn best by doing, touching, feeling, experimenting,” said Amelia Schrader, senior manager of Learning and Education at the Explore & More Children’s Museum. “Simple tips are also about empowering parents to learn more on their own: ‘I don’t have a PhD but I can totally help make up games with my kid. I didn’t know that was helping my kid’s brain development.’”
“We’re hoping this will be the beginning of our endeavor to engage the community,” Wang said.
In the future, Wang would like to explore pop-up sessions with different organizations in the community. Long-term plans include a study that would follow the development of participating local children.