Observing your Children Learn and Play

Wheelock Intro photo 3By Wheelock faculty, Stephanie Cox Suarez, Erica Licea-Kane; student documenter, Angelina Amato; and Boston Children’s Museum staff member Kana Tsuchiya

In spring 2015, Stephanie Cox Suarez and Erica Licea-Kane led 20 Wheelock College undergraduate students to Boston Children’s Museum as part of a capstone course called “Making Learning Visible”. This course focused on documentation and visual arts for teaching, and students visited the Museum five times to document children’s play and learning. This is the first collaboration of its kind with this Wheelock College capstone course, and it has inspired us to continue to research children’s play and learning at the Museum.

Throughout this project, documentation methodology included observation and subsequent interpretation of learning processes and products of learning. This methodology helps teachers to reflect, deepen and extend children’s and teacher’s learning (more about Documentation practice is available here). Wheelock College student documenters observed multiple times at the Museum and worked alongside Museum staff to consider the following questions:

How are children interacting with the materials?

How do adults and children engage?  

Do children engage with other children they do not know?  

Observation in public spaces like Boston Children’s Museum, of children and families  you do not know and may not see again, can be challenging. For example, recording as many details as possible is important to ensure accurate data collection.  Sometimes this includes photographic data.  But in order to take photos of children, parents and guardians must give written permission. How did this work for the Wheelock students?

Wheelock Intro photo 1At first, talking to parents felt awkward for many of the students – walking up to a family who was clearly there to be engaged as a family unit and perhaps not interested in outsiders observing their interactions felt intrusive.  As Wheelock faculty (Stephanie and Erica), we were impressed with the students in how they approached families with a growing ease and comfort.

Students quickly gained confidence and looked comfortable and at ease as they explained to a parent the purpose of this work and how the museum and other families could learn from each other. Wheelock students got so good at this process, that by the end of the course they had collected more photo permission forms than Boston Children’s Museum is accustomed to gathering! Once parents gave permission, the student documenters had the freedom to photograph a variety of children’s interactions.

Wheelock Intro photo 2

Over the next two weeks, we will post a series of short stories from the Wheelock student documenters, which will illustrate how children and adults are learning together at the Boston Children’s Museum. Check this blog over the coming days to learn more about some of the research happening at Boston Children’s Museum.




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