Providence Children's Museum - Mind Lab

What is Mind Lab?

Mind Lab is a permanent space at Providence Children's Museum where children, caregivers and researchers explore the process of learning.

Activities in Mind Lab vary depending on the day.  Visitors might participate in ongoing research by the Museum or by collaborators at Brown University and Providence College about how children’s thinking and learning develops.  Or they might engage in self-directed activities that illustrate specific ways that kids learn through play and exploration.

Mind Lab also encourages adult caregivers to notice and reflect on their children’s purposeful play and exploration.


Who are the Mind Lab researchers?

Mind Lab researchers are developmental psychologists – scientists who study how children think, learn and develop.

Dr. David Sobel is a Professor of Cognitive Science and Psychology at Brown University.  Dr. Sobel and members of his research team at The Causality and Mind Lab study the ways children learn about how things work (cause and effect) and their understanding of how people think and learn.

Dr. Jennifer Van Reet is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Providence College.  Dr. Van Reet and members of her research team at KidThink study how different types of play develop in early childhood and how play is helpful to children’s overall development.

Dr. Suzy Letourneau is Providence Children’s Museum’s Project Researcher on the Learning About Learning project.  Dr. Letourneau studies what children and caregivers understand about learning through play at the Museum and how to support children’s metacognition – their ability to notice and reflect on their own thinking.


How do the Mind Lab researchers study how children learn?

In general, researchers observe children and ask questions to find out how their thinking and learning develops.

Children and their parents might chat with the researchers, or researchers might observe as kids experiment with specially designed activities or play in the Museum’s exhibits.  By observing and talking with lots of kids, the scientists gather information about what children tend to understand at different stages of development.

Each study is different, but all involve short, fun activities that last 5 to 15 minutes, and parents are required to stay with their children at all times while the study is happening.  Parents and children choose whether to participate and may decide to stop at any time.  There are no known risks with these types of studies.  All Museum visitors are welcome to talk to researchers to learn more about Mind Lab studies, even if they don’t wish to participate.


How can my child participate in Mind Lab?

Mind Lab is open during most weekday Museum hours – either as a self-directed space for learning about learning or as a space for ongoing research studies.

Researchers are in Mind Lab several days a week.  Feel free to call the Museum at (401) 273-5437 to check the schedule.


How can I learn more about how children learn?



The Mind Lab space is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1223777 to Brown University in partnership with Providence Children’s Museum. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.