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Power of Play at Children’s Museums

Power of Play at Children’s Museums

Photo credit: Jaren Collins/JCi Creatives, LLC

by: Kelly Hoke

Following the announcement of the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) new strategic plan, The NY Times recently published an article about the new face of children’s museums and “breadth of learning” that these playful spaces support. The COVID-19 pandemic meant that there was a lot of pivoting for children’s museums, yet the field continued to prioritize playful learning for children. The revised vision statement in ACM’s new strategic plan prioritizes playful learning and the STEM Research Center is thrilled to be part of this priority.

In 2020, ACM and the STEM research center began collaboration on the NSF-funded project, interPLAY: Early Learners Developing STEM Skills through Play and Design. The project focuses on playful engagement with STEM exhibits for children three to eight years old. Working closely with ACM, the STEM Research Center is developing a tool for practitioners that support reflection and evaluation of exhibit design, with an eye on broadening participation in early STEM engagement through play.

Near the end of April, researcher Kelly Hoke held a workshop for children’s museum practitioners based on the findings from the project. The workshop included an opportunity for practitioners to observe playful learning in action while piloting an observation tool at STEM focused exhibits at the brand new Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans as part of ACM’s annual conference. Practitioners reflected on intentional design that supports STEM engagement and the important role of caregivers in making learning relevant during these playful opportunities.

Over the next year, the project team will continue refining practitioner focused resources that will support playful STEM engagement at exhibits for young children.

For more information about the project, interPLAY: Early Learners Developing STEM Skills through Play and Design.