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Service-Learning Course Expands CMoR's Living Lab

Students in Assistant Professor Marcia Winter’s PSYC 493 “Developmental Science: Making it Real” service-learning course are working with the Children’s Museum of Richmond (CMoR) to develop and extend the scope of Seymour’s Living Lab (SLL), which offers families hands-on science education, in addition to providing opportunities for scientists to disseminate information and to recruit participants.

“Our students might lead a child in an activity to demonstrate impulse control (or lack thereof), and parents are offered accompanying information about the scientific concept and what we know about it,” Winter said. “Students also recruit children and their parents/guardians to participate in interactive research studies while they’re at the museum.”

Winter said that students are not only providing a valuable service to the parents and to CMoR, but they are also seeing the importance of what they’re doing and the science behind what children demonstrate.

“CMoR relies on volunteers for much of its programming, so it seems like a natural match to bring our PSYC students, so many of whom are eager for hands-on experience, into service there,” Winter said. “Learning is at the core of all that CMoR does, so learning about child learning and development fits right in and helps reinforce the educational nature of CMoR for museum visitors and personnel, as well as VCU students. Our interactive exhibits also allow excellent opportunities for a dynamic museum experience.”

Supported by a Service-Learning Partnership Grant, the initiative is based on and is a localized extension of the national Living Lab initiative, which was originally funded through the National Science Foundation. After funding ended, Winter and CMoR Education Manager Jenna Petrosino began exploring ways to continue the initiative and make the model more sensitive to local needs and more sustainable long-term. Service-Learning Teaching Assistant Jessica Greenlee is producing a manual for the program and for the pedagogical model it encompasses.

“We’re exploring more ways to extend SLL - to the other CMoR sites in Chesterfield and Short Pump and by applying the program more broadly to reach more families and even educators who might be able to use the model,” Winter said.

For more information, contact Winter at mawinter@vcu.edu.