The Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) and the STEM Research Center at Oregon State University (OSU) are collaborating on an applied research project that focuses on better understanding of playful engagement with STEM exhibits for children three to eight years old, with an eye on broadening participation in early STEM engagement. The four-phase “Research in Service to Practice” study has received funding from the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning program. ACM and OSU will tap into practitioner knowledge and conduct a series of observations to create design principles for playful early learner STEM exhibits in children’s museums and science centers. Design principles will connect the cultural relevance of play with the development of early STEM skills in support of quality, age-appropriate early STEM learning. The project will pursue the following research questions:
Over the course of four years OSU will co-develop a framework and will lead the research efforts of the project. R & D activities over the next four years include:
This project is focused on early childhood learners at a time when they are just beginning to develop their self-identity through play and social interactions in conjunction with early STEM skill development. interPLAY will help motivate early learners and their families towards a journey of STEM literacy, learning, and identity. This project will provide valuable insights into the interplay between play, exhibit design, and STEM skill development and will provide practitioners with a framework for effectively bridging the self-motivating power of play with evidence-based practices for supporting free-choice learning. By supporting professionals in children’s museums and science centers, the project will enrich the experience of children 3 to 8 years of age and their caregivers during their visits to these important institutions for early STEM learning.
The project team consists of Kelly Hoke (as lead), Kelly Riedinger, and Martin Storksdieck. Kelly Hoke brings expertise in early childhood development and play while Kelly Riedinger and Martin Storksdieck are experts in informal STEM learning.