Following a National Science Foundation Phase 1 grant in 2015, this Phase 2 (UK/US collaborative Science Learning+) project will be carried out over 36 months and examine how interactive museum exhibits designed to encourage meaningful actions can help young children express, communicate and develop their scientific thinking.
The project is a collaboration between the US, funded by National Science Foundation and led by Judy Brown, Museum of Science, and the UK, funded by the Wellcome Trust. The Co-PIs in the UK are Sara Price, UCL and Sharon MacNab, Glasgow Science Centre.
The resurgence and growing recognition of the importance of early learning on national and global scales, coupled with rapid developments in sensing and interaction technology present new opportunities to investigate how pre-school children learn, communicate, and feel about STEM topics. Carefully designed pre-K learning opportunities have been shown to have immediate, positive impacts on individual learners as well as broader, long-term societal benefits. This project builds on such findings by pursuing research to improve the efficacy of STEM learning exhibits for young museum visitors.
Project outputs will include the creation of new tools and techniques for analyzing embodied learning in informal settings, empirical-based design guidelines for applying embodied learning to exhibit design, and the formation of an international community of early learning educators and researchers working together to focus on embodied pre-K science learning.
A design-based research methodology will be applied to address three key questions:
1) What elements of sensory and action experiences are key to informing design exhibits that aim to exploit embodied interactions for learning;
2) What is the role of bodily enactment /gestures in assessing children’s understanding of science concepts/ cause and effect relationships;
3) What cross-cultural differences in kinds of embodied engagement emerge.
Video and audio data of approximately 400 children’s exhibit interactions will be collected. Pre/post semi-structured interviews will be conducted with a third of these participants. The interviews will focus on children’s understanding of relevant science concepts as well as their reflections on their physical and emotional experience engaging with the exhibit. Find out more at the project website