This is a Science Learning+ planning project that will develop a research plan for investigating how applying the principles of embodied cognition to the design of informal learning environments can support young children’s (ages 2-6) engagement with, and understanding of, science topics and concepts.
As part of NSF’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning program, Science Learning+ is a partnership among US and UK foundations. Science Learning+ makes grant awards that take transformational steps to inform, improve, and advance the knowledge bases, practices, and design of informal STEM learning experiences and environments. The long-term SL+ goals are to broaden participation in STEM and to better understand, strengthen, and coordinate STEM engagement and lifelong learning.
The Move2Learn planning project, led by the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science and researchers from the University of Illinois and the University of Edinburgh, will include input from informal learning practitioners and cognitive scientists from the US and UK. The planning phase will culminate in the development of a research plan for investigating how applying the principles of embodied cognition to the design of informal learning environments can support young children’s (ages 2-6) engagement with, and understanding of, science topics and concepts.
While it has been fairly well established that cognition is intertwined with the body’s interaction in the physical world, the precise means of applying these ideas to the design of effective learning environments is still emerging. Thus, a major objective of this project is to articulate specific experimental designs that involve various embodied cognition activities and physical learning configurations in an effort to understand the optimal conditions for learning with early informal science learners.
During the planning grant period, the project will identify additional practitioner/research collaborations and will develop research plans for a suite of studies to be enacted by multiple teams of informal learning practitioners and cognitive scientists across the US and UK. This work will culminate in a Phase 2 research grant application that seeks to both advance the theory of embodied cognition and the implementation of full-body interaction exhibits in informal learning spaces. The primary activities of this planning period include organizing a series of workshops that bring together informal learning educators and embodied cognition researchers to engage in deep discussion and design experimentation. These meetings will inform the development and refinement of research questions, protocols, and measurement tools. Participants will be further informed by observations of young children as they interact with the Frost Museum of Science River of Grass, a full-body interaction exhibit prototype in which principles of embodied cognition are wholly relevant.
The leadership team will also pursue the development of a new model for informal STEM research in which a constellation of practitioner/research teams across multiple organizations investigates topics of importance to informal learning practice and research that have the potential to result in a robust body of research that informs the design of informal learning spaces.
Key contact: Andrew Manches