Family Learning in Museums
The decrease in the number of US students interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects and fields has received considerable attention in recent years. The National Science Foundation (NSF) refers to this as the STEM education problem. Our research explores one way to address the STEM problem, by studying how children develop interest and skill in STEM, even at a young age. With support from NSF and in collaboration with David Uttal (Northwestern University) we are examining questions such as "How do parent-child conversational interactions during hands-on activities impact children’s STEM learning?" "Under what conditions do parent-child conversations and hands-on activities help children remember what they have learned and apply this knowledge to new situations?" The studies to answer these questions take place in a special exhibit within the Chicago Children’s Museum that was designed specifically to advance STEM learning. The research will recommend methods that parents and other educators can use with young children in STEM learning situations to foster early understanding of the scientific method, develop knowledge of STEM-related concepts, and potentially increase interest in future science education and career options.