Posts tagged ‘Carnegie Mellon University’

August 26, 2014

Increasing Scientific Literacy Through Museum Research

by Melissa Harding

IMG_0188

Every day, scientific research is being done on any number of topics. A quick browse through PLOS One, a peer-reviewed, open-access online journal for scientific papers of all kinds, reveals topics such as: molecular threading, NaOH debittering, and elevated levels of carbon monoxide in mouse exhalations. While these are surely important topics to medicine, agriculture and other fields of study, they don’t mean very much to the average person. In fact, much of the research that goes on in science often does not make it into the popular culture; sometimes this work is very specialized, sometimes it is perceived as irrelevant, or sometimes it is difficult to understand. This results in a poor understanding of what a scientist is and does. Luckily, there are many researchers who realize this and are trying to break down the barriers between scientists and the public. The Living Laboratory, an educational, on-site research program developed at the Museum of Science, Boston, is one such organization.

In the Living Lab model, scientists in the fields of child developmental and psychological research conduct their studies at local museums, recruiting study participants from museum visitors. These researchers then work with museum educators to communicate  their work to visitors through innovative activities and one-on-one interactions with the researchers themselves. These studies occur on the museum floor, in plain view of visitors, allowing them to be drawn in to the process. Participants and viewers alike learn how science is applicable to their own lives, how research is conducted, what scientists look and act like and how to answer tough questions using the scientific method.  Studies on the effectiveness of this approach have found that watching children participate in research studies increases adult awareness of child development as a science and that one-on-one conversations between adults and scientists increase adult understanding of the scientific process and their overall scientific literacy.

TIMG_0157he Living Laboratory has been so successful that it has spawned the National Living Lab Initiative. This program has created “hubs” in regions across the country to connect museums and researchers together. In addition to The Museum of Science, Boston, the Maryland Science Center, the Madison Children’s Museum and the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry act as hub leaders, helping other museums to adopt a similar model.

At Phipps, we are working with researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s Cognitive Development Lab to provide a museum setting for their work.  CMU’s Cognitive Development Lab is interested in gaining a better understanding of “how children generalize knowledge they have to new situations, how children acquire language, what role language plays in knowledge generalization, how children maintain focused attention, and what role focused attention plays in acquisition of new knowledge.” They do this playing games with their subjects that are designed to take show researchers how children think and how their thinking changes with development.

Two of the games that they are currently playing with our visitors are the “Help Zippo” game and the “Perceptual Similarity” game. The first, Help Zippo, investigates how children organize plants and animals based on the relationships between them. Children are given cards with black and white pictures of plants and animals and asked to sort them onto a game board four different times. Each time, researchers are looking to see how they are grouped and whether children can group the pictures in multiple ways. The Perceptual Similarity game tests the degree to which children can use their knowledge of how objects are categorized in a situation in which they are presented with conflicting information. Children are shown a set of three pictures, two of which are similar and one of which is close, but slight different (e.g. a lemon, a lemon wedge and a yellow tennis ball). Children are told that the similar objects go together and asked to pick which two match based on physical similarity. Both of these games test category-based reasoning, but the Cognitive Development Lab also tests other topics, such as the development of focused attention during pre-school years and the effect of classroom visual environment on allocating attention and learning.

IMG_0147The games that the Cognitive Development Lab plays with children are different each time, based on the different studies that are being run. Phipps is not the only source of study participants, so the study is conducted in a secluded, quiet spot where variables like noise and stimulation can be controlled. While they watch their child participate, parents are given information on the study itself to help them understand more about the research question being investigated. This is a wonderful way for parents and children to engage with the research and, as the research questions often change quickly, there are many eager return customers.

Having researchers working in public settings, like museums and libraries, is a great way to involve families in the scientific process. Through participation in studies and interaction with scientists, visitors, researchers and museums can all benefit!

If you are a museum professional and would like to learn more about a Living Lab hub near you, check out the National Living Lab Initiative.

To learn more about the research being conducted by CMU’s Child Development Lab, check out their great website; there is also information for parents if you are local to Pittsburgh and would like to participate.

The above photos of the CMU Cognitive Development Lab team were taken by our photography intern, Cory Doman.

September 13, 2013

Melissa Heads to the National Living Lab Meeting at the Museum of Science, Boston!

by Melissa Harding

IMG_0110

This weekend, science educator Melissa Harding will be traveling to Boston’s Museum of Science for the National Living Lab Northeast Region Hub Meeting. The National Living Laboratory is a nationally-recognized model for research that takes place inside museums and other informal learning institutions. In the Living Lab model, scientists in the fields of child developmental and psychological research conduct their studies at local museums, recruiting study participants from museum visitors. These researchers then work with museum educators to communicate the questions and methods of their work to visitors through innovative activities and one-on-one interactions with the researchers themselves. These studies occur on the museum floor, in plain view of visitors, allowing them to be drawn in to the process. Participants and viewers alike learn how science is applicable to their own lives, how research is conducted, what scientists look and act like and how to answer tough questions using the scientific method.

Melissa will be in Boston to attend a two day conference to learn better how to work with the current researchers that we have, as well as learn how to facilitate more effective interactions between visitors and researchers. She will be meeting with museum educators and researchers from all over the northeastern US to learn from their successes and failures, as well as to share experiences at Phipps.

To learn more about our research collaborations with Carnegie Mellon University, check out our blog post on research in museums.

To learn more about the importance of museums in early learning, check out this recent post.

The above photo was taken by Cory Doman.

September 3, 2013

Increasing Scientific Literacy Through Museum Research

by Melissa Harding

IMG_0188

Every day, scientific research is being done on any number of topics. A quick browse through PLOS One, a peer-reviewed, open-access online journal for scientific papers of all kinds, reveals topics such as: molecular threading, NaOH debittering, and elevated levels of carbon monoxide in mouse exhalations. While these are surely important topics to medicine, agriculture and other fields of study, they don’t mean very much to the average person. In fact, much of the research that goes on in science often does not make it into the popular culture; sometimes this work is very specialized, sometimes it is perceived as irrelevant, or sometimes it is difficult to understand. This results in a poor understanding of what a scientist is and does. Luckily, there are many researchers who realize this and are trying to break down the barriers between scientists and the public. The Living Laboratory, an educational, on-site research program developed at the Museum of Science, Boston, is one such organization.

In the Living Lab model, scientists in the fields of child developmental and psychological research conduct their studies at local museums, recruiting study participants from museum visitors. These researchers then work with museum educators to communicate  their work to visitors through innovative activities and one-on-one interactions with the researchers themselves. These studies occur on the museum floor, in plain view of visitors, allowing them to be drawn in to the process. Participants and viewers alike learn how science is applicable to their own lives, how research is conducted, what scientists look and act like and how to answer tough questions using the scientific method.  Studies on the effectiveness of this approach have found that watching children participate in research studies increases adult awareness of child development as a science and that one-on-one conversations between adults and scientists increase adult understanding of the scientific process and their overall scientific literacy.

TIMG_0157he Living Laboratory has been so successful that it has spawned the National Living Lab Initiative. This program has created “hubs” in regions across the country to connect museums and researchers together. In addition to The Museum of Science, Boston, the Maryland Science Center, the Madison Children’s Museum and the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry act as hub leaders, helping other museums to adopt a similar model.

At Phipps, we are working with researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s Cognitive Development Lab to provide a museum setting for their work.  CMU’s Cognitive Development Lab is interested in gaining a better understanding of “how children generalize knowledge they have to new situations, how children acquire language, what role language plays in knowledge generalization, how children maintain focused attention, and what role focused attention plays in acquisition of new knowledge.” They do this playing games with their subjects that are designed to take show researchers how children think and how their thinking changes with development.

Two of the games that they are currently playing with our visitors are the “Help Zippo” game and the “Perceptual Similarity” game. The first, Help Zippo, investigates how children organize plants and animals based on the relationships between them. Children are given cards with black and white pictures of plants and animals and asked to sort them onto a game board four different times. Each time, researchers are looking to see how they are grouped and whether children can group the pictures in multiple ways. The Perceptual Similarity game tests the degree to which children can use their knowledge of how objects are categorized in a situation in which they are presented with conflicting information. Children are shown a set of three pictures, two of which are similar and one of which is close, but slight different (e.g. a lemon, a lemon wedge and a yellow tennis ball). Children are told that the similar objects go together and asked to pick which two match based on physical similarity. Both of these games test category-based reasoning, but the Cognitive Development Lab also tests other topics, such as the development of focused attention during pre-school years and the effect of classroom visual environment on allocating attention and learning.

IMG_0147The games that the Cognitive Development Lab plays with children are different each time, based on the different studies that are being run. Phipps is not the only source of study participants, so the study is conducted in a secluded, quiet spot where variables like noise and stimulation can be controlled. While they watch their child participate, parents are given information on the study itself to help them understand more about the research question being investigated. This is a wonderful way for parents and children to engage with the research and, as the research questions often change quickly, there are many eager return customers.

Having researchers working in public settings, like museums and libraries, is a great way to involve families in the scientific process. Through participation in studies and interaction with scientists, visitors, researchers and museums can all benefit!

If you are a museum professional and would like to learn more about a Living Lab hub near you, check out the National Living Lab Initiative.

To learn more about the research being conducted by CMU’s Child Development Lab, check out their great website; there is also information for parents if you are local to Pittsburgh and would like to participate.

The above photos of the CMU Cognitive Development Lab team were taken by our photography intern, Cory Doman.

February 6, 2013

February Inspire Speaker Series: Healthy Places and Indoor Air Quality

by Melissa Harding

inspire feb

GBA and Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens are excited to present the fifth session of the INSPIRE Speakers Series with national expert, Steve Ashkin, and local experts, Vivian Loftness and Erica Cochran!  

WHERE students learn matters. School buildings can enhance a student’s ability to learn by keeping them healthy, attentive and present. By improving indoor air quality, healthy and high performing schools can improve the health of students, faculty and staff.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, students in America miss approximately 14 million school days per year because of asthma. More than 65 percent of asthma cases among elementary school-age students could be prevented by controlling exposure to indoor environmental factors (according to the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine). Improved attendance affects a school’s financial bottom line due to federal funding that is linked to average daily attendance. According to the Department of Education, more than 20 percent of public schools report having unsatisfactory indoor air quality.  Carnegie Mellon University studies have shown that improved indoor air quality can have an average overall health improvement rate of 41 percent.

Join us on Valentine’s Day to talk about loving healthy learning spaces! The indoor environments in schools impact student and teacher health and productivity, as well as finances. The lecture will address:

  • The effects of building design, operations, and maintenance on student and teacher health and productivity
  • The business case for healthy indoor environments in schools
  • Easy low to no-cost steps schools can take to improve indoor air quality
  • New innovations in the fields of green cleaning and maintenance

We have an excellent lineup of national and local experts who will discuss how to create healthy indoor environments:

  • Vivian Loftness, FAIA, LEED AP, is a University Professor and former Head of the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University. She is an internationally renowned researcher, author and educator with over thirty years of focus on environmental design and sustainability, advanced building integration, climate and regionalism in architecture, and design for performance in the workplace of the future.
  • Steve Ashkin, known as the “father of green cleaning,” has been working in the cleaning industry since 1981 where he has held key technical and management positions for leading commercial and consumer products companies, and has worked on the issue of “green cleaning” since 1990.
  • Erica Cochran, Assoc. AIA, NOMA, LEED AP, is an Adjunct Assistant Professor and PhD Candidate at Carnegie Mellon University and an Architectural Designer. Erica’s doctoral research investigates the impact of school building and neighborhood physical and environmental characteristics on student and teacher health and performance.

 Learn more about the speakers at www.go-gba.org/inspirespeakersseries

 For the February lecture only, attendees can bring a guest or date for only $10 (GBA and Partner Organization Members) or $15 (Non-members).  We will also give away a few gift certificates to local eateries so you have a chance to enjoy Valentine’s Day dinner on us!

 WHEN: Thursday, February 14th from 5:30 – 8 p.m.

WHERE: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, One Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

The event will be held in the new Center for Sustainable Landscapes building (learn more about one of the greenest buildings in the world!)

 Registration Information:

  • GBA Member Fee: $25.00
  • Member of Partner Organization Fee (Phipps Conservatory or Tri-State Area School Study Council): $25.00
  • Non-member Fee: $45.00
  • Student Fee: $25.00
  • Bring a Date or Guest! Select “Group Registration”:
    • Member of GBA or Partner Organizations: $35 for 2 Attendees
    • Non-members: $60 for 2 Attendees

 CLICK TO LEARN MORE AND REGISTER.

 For group rates and scholarship information, please contact Jenna Cramer.

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