Museum Pairing Promotes Children's Scientific Exploration

UA linguist Cecile McKee is leading an applied research project in collaboration with Children's Museum Tucson involving children between the ages of 2 and 8.

Children between the ages of 2 and 8 who visit Children's Museum Tucson with their families this fall are learning how to gather evidence and communicate their findings — essential elements of scientific research — under the guise of playful interaction.

Families can voluntarily participate in the informal science education project "Linguistics in Children's Museum Tucson," which is supported by new University of Arizona 100% Engagement funding and is evaluating a framework for teaching children science in an informal setting.

Led by UA linguist Cecile McKee, a multi-organization team of UA students and museum staff launched the evidence-based project, which supports English and Spanish speakers. The effort is partially driven by research indicating that children often learn best through play but that some parents believe that play is divorced from actual learning.

"We were trying to figure out how to coordinate with the museum, which is all about playful learning and sharing science with kids," said McKee, associate dean for research in the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and co-principal investigator on the grant with Autumn Rentmeester at Children's Museum Tucson.

"Part of playing is about making choices and, with this project, the child gets to decide," said McKee, also a linguistics professor, who has facilitated similar informal science education projects at festivals, fairs and other events locally and across the nation. "We are really focusing on the children's engagement with science and the parents' involvement with their children."

The project is one of 19 strategic investments the UA Office of Student Engagement made during the spring of 2015, supporting collaborative teams across campus under the University's 100% Engagement initiative.

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Published Date: 

11/17/2015 - 5:41pm