Posts filed under ‘Research / Data’

Child Scientists Needed!

Have you ever seen those signs on the T that say something like “Do you have a child between the ages of 2 and 5?  Does he/she like to do puzzles and play games?  Come to ‘X’ University to play some games and help us learn about how children learn!”

Well, it turns out that it’s very hard to get people to trek out to ‘X’ University to participate in studies like these.  So institutions like Museum of Science, Boston  http://www.mos.org/  and Boston Children’s Museum http://www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org/ are offering our space to researchers so they can collect data for their studies.  This also enables the research to get out into the public domain.  Researchers collect data by recruiting museum visitors to participate in a variety of studies that last about fifteen minutes and happen right at the museum during the course of their visit.

The Museum of Science has created a “Living Lab” http://www.mos.org/discoverycenter/livinglab  where research happens right out in the open in a corner of their Discovery Center or the Human Body Connection.  Boston Children’s Museum has been a partner in this project and is learning from them how to work with researchers effectively.

At Boston Children’s Museum the research sometimes happens behind closed doors with parents present, but often happens out in the open as well.  Researchers benefit because they have a captive audience from which to collect data and the students who collect the data get practice talking to the public about their research. The museums benefit from having researchers visible because it emphasizes how much learning and brain development is happening in the process of “play” – playing at museums or playing games at home. We can also utilize the research to plan exhibits and programs that promote learning.

The Early Childhood Cognition Lab at MIT actually has their own lab space at Boston Children’s Museum called PlayLab http://www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org/exhibits/playlab.html#letter .   Researchers are there everyday conducting studies for young children ages 3 months to 8 years.  Their research is focused on answering questions about how children learn and understand cause-and-effect relationships and interpret different types of evidence.  The studies are short and fun, and may include playing games or watching a short video or display.

Other studies taking place at Boston Children’s Museum are:

  • Children’s Beliefs and Preferences (Harvard)
  • The Development of Executive Functioning (Children’s Hospital)
  • The Development of Children’s Estimation and Counting (Boston College)
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December 9, 2011 at 10:40 AM Leave a comment

Beep! Beep! Here comes the Storymobile!

It’s that time of year again! The ReadBoston Storymobile will be rolling through the streets of Boston visiting 78 sites each week from July 5-August 12. At each Storymobile session, children participate in a fun, interactive storytelling with a professional storyteller and receive a free, new book to take home. By the end of the summer, children will have received at least six free, new books to keep as their own!

The goal of the Storymobile program is to promote literacy as a year round endeavor that doesn’t end when school doors close for summer. Too often ReadBoston’s Storymobile provides the only literacy activities that Boston kids, especially ages 2-7, experience throughout the summer break. The summer slide, as termed by researchers, which many low-income children experience, might be avoided by providing as few as six books for them to read, and re-read, during the summer months. 

ReadBoston is very excited to include some new features in this year’s program:

  • Two weekly evening sessions:
    • Tuesdays, beginning July 12, 7 pm at Jamaica Pond
    • Thursdays, beginning July 14, 5 pm at the Franklin Park Zoo, outside of the Zebra Gate
  • Weekly session at the Leahy-Holloran Community Center in Dorchester(Tuesdays at 1:15) that is open to all and will include Autism friendly programming
  • A week of special events from August 15-19 including sessions at Fenway Park, Spectacle Island, Boston College and Bunker Hill 

The Storymobile program is open to all children across the city of Boston. Click here for a location near you! 

Questions? Call ReadBoston at 617-918-5289.

June 23, 2011 at 4:28 PM Leave a comment

On Beyond Marshmallows…

If you like the Marshmallow experiment you’ll be interested to know that researchers from MIT, Boston College, Harvard University and Children’s Hospital are running similar experiments at Boston Children’s Museum.

 MIT’s Early Childhood Cognition Lab has a space at the Museum called PlayLab and runs several experiments in which visitors can participate.  Participation is always voluntary!  Researchers are there every day conducting studies for young children ages 3 months to 8 years.  Their research is focused on answering questions about how children learn and understand cause-and-effect relationships and interpret different types of evidence.  The studies are short and fun, and may include playing games or watching a short video or display.

 Other researchers are collecting data at the Museum too:

 The Lab for Developmental Studies at Harvard University

  •  How children think about different beliefs and how children reason about people who have different beliefs than they do.  Could lead to better anti-bullying policies…

 Children’s Hospital Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience

  • How do kids’ memories work? Could lead to changes in education…

 Boston College Infant and Child Cognition Center

  • When and how do children learn what number words refer to and why we count? Maybe children receptive to learning about numbers and counting earlier than we thought…

 Thinking and Learning Lab at Boston College

  • How do kids learn math? We could learn the best ways to teach math…

 Arts and Mind group at Boston College

  • What are the benefits of art making on children’s mood?  Evidence could advocate for more arts in schools…

 Researchers share what they’re learning with the Museum which helps us to build better exhibits and to get grants to support the important work that we are doing.

March 23, 2011 at 4:42 PM Leave a comment

The Great Marshmallow Experiment

If someone put a marshmallow on a plate in front of you, would you eat it? Or would you wait and, as a reward for your waiting, have two marshmallows? I know if you are talking to me and it’s about 3pm, I would have a hard time waiting for that second marshmallow!

(Check out this video to see which kids have more will power than me at afternoon snack time: Kids Marshmallow Experiment

The marshmallow experiment was a study that offered just this. The experiment was originally conducted in 1972 by psychologist Walter Mischel of Stanford University and has been repeated many times since. In the study, a marshmallow was offered to each child. If the child could resist eating the marshmallow, s/he was promised two instead of one. The scientists analyzed how long each child resisted the temptation of eating the marshmallow, and whether or not doing so had an effect on their future success. The results provided researchers with great insight on the psychology of self control.

Recently, I read an article on NPR about just how important this self-control is for children. Something that was particularly interesting to me was the knowledge that the children who struggled with self-control as preschoolers were three times as likely to have problems as young adults. So many times, there is a focus work on learning specific directed “lessons” and it is easy to forget the simple things, self-regulation, patience, and self-management. Then again, these are things that teachers, families and friends can help to teach children everyday and that enable a child to sit down and learn those lessons. This is something that can start at a young age and that continually needs to be reinforced (even for those working adults with a craving for an afternoon treat!!).

March 16, 2011 at 9:34 AM Leave a comment

Swap.com – How You Can Help Provide Boston Kids with High Quality Books

At ReadBoston, an important part of our work is providing Boston kids with access to high quality children’s books. In fact, each year, ReadBoston distributes over 50,000 brand new books to Boston kids through our summer Storymobile program alone. Access to books is one of the most important factors in developing the literacy skills necessary for school success. Research shows that low-income children have little access to high quality reading materials. There is about 10 times greater access to reading material in higher-income neighborhoods than in lower-income neighborhoods in an urban setting. Further, kids who read outside of school do better in school than those who do not. 

As a nonprofit, we rely on donations to provide Boston kids with access to high quality books. And, it just got easier to donate these books to ReadBoston! We’re partnering with Boston-based swap.com to get books to children most at risk of not reading on grade level by 4th grade. It is very simple. Check our list, print a mailing label and send it off. You get to have your book ‘re-used,’ ReadBoston has some budget relief and more kids will have more books. Click here to see how you can help!

March 9, 2011 at 2:33 PM Leave a comment

$10.83 for Just $1

The down economy has made it far more difficult to find an investment opportunity with a big pay off.  Numerous studies now show that maybe we should look to Sesame Street instead of Wall Street for high returns on investment.

A new study in the journal Child Development  estimates the return for every $1 spent on Chicago’s Child-Parent Centers’ (CPC) preschool program at $10.83 – an 18% annual return.  The study tracks CPC participants through age 26, old enough to show significant benefits to society – you and me – as well as participants in the program.  Here’s how that $1 returns more than $10 over time:

  • Life Course Crime Savings (including those to victims) – $4.99
  • Increased Earnings and Tax Revenues – $3.39
  • Reduced Child Welfare Expenses – $0.86
  • Reduced Special Education Costs – $0.62
  • As well as returns from lower rates of Substance Abuse, Adult Depression, and Smoking

The return on investment was also greater for children often considered most in need of services: boys ($17.88 for every $1), children from families with four or more risk factors ($12.81), children whose parents never completed high school ($15.88), and children from high poverty neighborhoods ($17.92). 

CPC preschool program participants also had higher high school completion rates, more years of education overall and higher health insurance coverage rates in addition to the individual benefits mentioned above.

 If all that doesn’t convince you of the benefits of investing in early childhood, hear more from Art Rolnick at Boston’s 2011 Early Childhood Summit on April 14th.  Art Rolnick, Senior VP and Director of Research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, is the keynote speaker at the Summit and will share his insights after years of research on the economic impact of early childhood investments.

February 23, 2011 at 10:13 AM Leave a comment

ReadBoston Goes Green for Literacy

We’ve all seen it before: Little kids jumping in puddles after it rains; digging in holes in search of worms; chasing after pigeons and seagulls; asking, “Mom, why is the sky blue?” It should come as no surprise, then, that recent research states that environmentally based education can dramatically improve student learning, including increased standardized test scores. At ReadBoston, we’ve used this research as the basis for a program that aims to increase literacy skills while developing children’s knowledge of the environment and their capacity and commitment to preserving it. It’s called the Environmental Literacy Project.

When students read, write and speak about subjects that appeal to them, they are more likely to make an effort to strengthen these important skills. Moreover, to do well on standardized tests, including MCAS, students need to have had a lot of exposure to unusual words and subject matters, which helps to increase their overall knowledge and vocabulary.

Kids at the Curley Lower School show off their Environmental Book Collection

ReadBoston has implemented the Environmental Literacy Project across our programming in early education centers, after school programs and in the Boston Public Schools. We provide our programs with age-appropriate books for classroom lending libraries, read aloud guides with extension activities for classroom use, staff support for in-class and family activities, funding for experiential field trips to locations like the Boston Nature Center and Harvard Museum of Natural History and booklists and handouts for families. 

The results of the program are very encouraging. Based on our surveys, 61% of Kindergarten families are reading “more often” because of having participated in the Environmental Literacy Project. In one school, reading rates improved a remarkable 100 percent. Teachers are very happy with the

Kids at the ABCD Chinese Church Head Start make a worm farm.

 initiative and with the additional resources it brings to the classrooms and report that the concepts and books (usually nonfiction) are especially appealing to boys and “reluctant readers.” Further, in addition to increasing reading rates, this program has also increased student and family awareness of the environment and environmental issues such as reduce, reuse and recycle. 

To learn more about ReadBoston’s Environmental Literacy Project, see our Environmental Literacy Project Fact Sheet under the Resources tab.

January 25, 2011 at 2:04 PM Leave a comment

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