June 25, 2007

Psychologists collaborate with Cleveland Children's Museum families


Twenty preschoolers and their parents will be recruited to participate in a pilot study run by researchers from the Case Western Reserve University psychology department to test an intervention strategy that is designed to teach children how to be better players.

The Children’s Museum of Cleveland will collaborate on the project and help the psychologists find the child-parent teams through visitors to their museum, located at 10730 Euclid Ave. in University Circle. The project will continue through August.

According to Sandra Russ, Case professor of psychology and the lead researcher on the facilitating play project, the importance of children's play is underestimated. Preschool children are at an important developmental stage where play can foster a host of skills for children.

"Play has been found to help children cope, adapt, adjust, create and learn to read," said Russ. She has more than 20 years of looking at the importance of play in children's lives.

She added that it also can improve the parent-child relationship and that is why parents have an important role in testing the new play intervention for preschool children. Children are tested for their play skills before and after the intervention, which takes place over three weeks.

Kelly Christian, a Case doctoral student, is literally on the ground with the study's participants during half-hour weekly sessions by facilitating make believe play situations and using a set of inexpensive toys.

While Christian plays with the children using the intervention method being tested, the parents observe the strategies that involve telling stories, using creativity and expressing emotions. Parents use those strategies during 10-minute "play" homework assignments during which children make up emotional and imaginary stories with such themes as visiting the zoo, getting lost and taking a puppy for a walk.

This study builds on intervention play research that has successfully taught 45 first and second graders at an elementary school in Cleveland Municipal School District how to play. The pilot will test the intervention used with the older children to see if it can also work with the younger ones.

The difference between the older child study and the younger one is the involvement of parents. The older children had five individual sessions with the researchers and were tested before and after for how play improved from using the intervention.

The Children's Museum of Cleveland President and Executive Director Jeffrey Saxon said he hopes to incorporate some of the findings of the study into how the museum may design its exhibits as well as in the development of educational programming for children and their caregivers.

"A key part of our vision is to provide experiences that foster creativity," said Saxon. "If there are techniques and concepts that we can learn from this study, it will be valuable for us."

"We're hoping to harness Case's intellectual horsepower and connect it to children and their families who regularly attend the museum in order, to ultimately, enhance their learning experience."

He also mentioned that one of the benchmarks of the best children's museums in the country is a research partnership with universities in order to use the museum as a laboratory for how children use exhibits, learn and extend their creativity.

In collaborations with institutions like Case, Saxon said children's museums can learn educational techniques that can immediately be put into practice.

For more information contact Susan Griffith, 216.368.1004.

Posted by: Marsha Bragg, June 25, 2007 09:35 PM | News Topics: Collaborations/Partnerships, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, HeadlinesMain, Provost Initiatives, Research

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