Research at the Museum

Mind Lab

For more than a decade, developmental psychologists have conducted research at Providence Children’s Museum to study what young children know and how their understanding develops and changes as they grow.  Researchers from Brown University and Providence College welcome visitors to participate in studies in the Museum’s Mind Lab each week to explore how children's thinking and learning develops.  Learn more.

Providence Children's Museum is also collaborating with Brown University on two major National Science Foundation-funded research projects:

Learning About Learning

The Museum is part of a 2012-2016 project (award #1223777) in collaboration with Brown University to study how children develop scientific thinking skills and understand their own learning processes.  The Museum is examining what children, caregivers and informal educators understand about learning through play in its exhibits and how to support children’s metacognition – the ability to notice and reflect on their own thinking – and adults’ awareness and appreciation of kids’ thinking and learning through play.  Learn more.

Exploring and Explaining

Children are naturally curious – they explore with their senses and both seek and generate explanations for why things happen.  Exploring and explaining are important aspects of scientific thinking.  When exploring, children often experiment to find out how things work and notice when one thing causes another to happen (causal reasoning).  When explaining, children articulate what they’ve learned and think about new questions to ask.  Caregivers support children’s exploration and learning in many ways ­– by encouraging, modeling, scaffolding and playing along, and by offering explanations.

In this 2015-2017 project (award #1420548), the Museum and Brown University are partnering with two other children’s museum/research teams – the Thinkery and the University of Texas at Austin, and the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose and the University of California Santa Cruz – to investigate how open-ended exploration and parent-child interactions in museum settings might support the development of scientific thinking skills like causal reasoning.  The teams will also consider how museum educational strategies and exhibit materials can better support children’s exploration and learning.