The Living Lab Proves Research Can Be Fun

The Children’s Museum of Richmond Collaborates with VCU

CMoR_Logo-web (2)The Children’s Museum of Richmond has been playing host to a team of Virginia Commonwealth University graduate students conducting research on how children develop motor planning skills.

The innovative partnership, which began last spring, is made possible by The Living Laboratory, a national program aimed at educating the public about how children learn by immersing museum visitors in the process of scientific discovery. The National Living Lab Initiative is supported by a grant to the Museum of Science, Boston from the National Science Foundation.

Graduate students from VCU’s Department of Occupational Therapy (School of Allied Health Professions) brought their research to the kid-friendly environment at the Children’s Museum of Richmond. Student scientists were able to interact with families and invite them to participate in several studies. The experiments were short and fun, including a wire maze and a shoelace, producing valuable research data and the chance to explain the science to the parents.

“From an instructor perspective, the Living Lab provides an opportunity for our OT students to be actively learning outside of the classroom about doing research, explaining research, and child development.  From a researcher perspective, the lab is an incredible opportunity to have access to so many children to recruit into our studies,” said Carole K. Ivey, PhD, OTR/L, Virginia Commonwealth University.

Becky Balog is one of 14 graduate students who have been involved in the Living Lab Model and says the experience has been invaluable.“Not only do we, as students, get to gather and process data that impacts the field of occupational therapy, but we also get to share the joy of exploration with children and their families. We are learning from them and they are learning from us!”

Due to the success of the pilot initiatives at the museum, the Children’s Museum will continue to grow Seymour’s Living Lab and are receiving proposals to extend research that focuses on Kindergarten Readiness, parent engagement, as well as social emotional learning.

“Participating with a national organization on the cutting edge of child development research is an exciting step for the Children’s Museum. Our partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University helps us evaluate exhibits and plan for new ones, as well as inform ongoing daily programs to boost early childhood skills beneficial for academic success, ” said Liz Pearce, MEd, Director of Parent Engagement, Children’s Museum of Richmond.