Boston's Museum of Science (MOS), with Harvard as its university research partner, is extending, disseminating, and further evaluating their NSF/ISE-funded (DRL-0714706) Living Laboratory model of informal cognitive science education. In this model, early-childhood researchers over the past three years have both conducted research in the MOS Discovery Center for young children and interacted with visitors during the museum's operating hours about what their research is finding about child development and cognition. Several methods of interacting with adult visitors were designed and evaluated, including the use of "research toys" as exhibits. Summative evaluation of the original work indicated positive outcomes on all targeted audiences - adults with young children, museum educators, and researchers.
The project is now broadening the implementation of the model by establishing three additional museum Hub Sites, each with university partners - Maryland Science Center (with Johns Hopkins), Madison Children's Museum (with University of Wisconsin, Madison), and Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (with Lewis & Clark College). The audiences continue to include researchers (along with graduate and undergraduate students); museum educators; and adults with children visiting the museums. Deliverables consist of: (1) establishment of and activities at the Hub sites and continued improvement of the MOS site, (2) a virtual Hub portal for the four sites and others around the country, (3) tool-kit resources for both museums and scientists, and (4) professional symposia at all sites.
Intended outcomes are: (1) improve museum educators' and museum visiting adults' understanding of cognitive/developmental psychology and research and its application to raising their children, (2) improve researchers' ability to communicate with the public and to conduct their research at the museums, and (3) increase interest in, knowledge about, and application of this model throughout the museum community and grow a network of such collaborations.