Research for families.
To understand the power of play, the Museum is proud to host leading-edge child development research studies in partnership with regional colleges and universities. During a visit to the Museum, you may find researchers seeking participants for studies. But not to worry! These studies are always designed to be quick and fun!
If approached, please consider participating as your involvement helps build future knowledge about how children learn through play. As always, participation is optional.
Scientific Thinking and Representation (STAR) Lab
The Museum has partnered with researchers from the Scientific Thinking and Representation Lab (STAR) at Villanova University to study the development of scientific and imaginative cognition in children. Dr. Deena Weisberg leads the team as they study children’s imaginative and scientific reasoning abilities. For example, they examine how children learn from storybooks. Although very young children can distinguish reality from fiction, little else is known about the nature of their imaginative abilities. When children play pretend games or listen to stories, what principles govern their interactions with imaginary worlds? And what role does imaginative cognition play in development? This study involves reading a storybook to children and answering questions about the story just as children might do at school to identify the linkages between imaginative cognition in pretend games and stories and the serious uses of imaginative cognition in future planning and scientific reasoning.
Leonard Learning Lab
Located within the department of psychology at Yale University, the team of researchers at the Leonard Learning Lab study how young children learn and how learning environments influence their motivation to learn. Dr. Julia Leonard leads the group in their quest to understand the factors that support both children’s approach to learning and their capacity to learn. They use the tools of cognitive science, developmental psychology, and neuroscience with a focus on early childhood education to seek evidence. In the end, their findings can help both educators and caregivers to support children as they grow.
Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania
Researchers in the human development lab with the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania study cognitive development and children’s theories of mind. Dr. Douglas Frye and his doctoral students are currently studying motivations to learn (or not) and what influences those decisions. This research investigates the relation of theory of mind to executive control, in particular, and to early childhood development in general. It examines the benefits theory of mind has for young children’s social-emotional understanding and for their understanding of teaching and learning.
Human-Computer Interaction Institute
Carnegie Mellon University
Researchers at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute investigate the relationship between computer technology, human activity, and society. Dr. Nesra Yannier is currently leading a project that looks at how augmented reality technology supports young children as they learn through play.
MindCore / Changing Brain Lab
University of Pennsylvania
The Museum partnered with researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Child Development Labs and Changing Brain Lab to study cognitive development focused on understanding children’s learning and motivation. Much of children’s early life is characterized by active, self-directed learning and exploration. However, there is a great deal of variability in how children approach learning problems. The goal of the research was to explore the many factors that influence challenge-seeking and persistence while uncovering ways to encourage children to engage in and persist through all learning opportunities.
Lead researchers found children persist less when adults take over, publishing their findings in the journal Child Development.