Friday, March 29, 2013

Instrumental Music & the Mind

Listening to music can soothe, stimulate and even evoke emotion. However, there is little conclusive evidence that suggests listening alone will enhance learning.  The original research on the “Mozart effect” indicated that there was a link between listening and smarts. Follow-up studies have found that students listening to Mozart were more stimulated than those listening to a relaxation tape or listening to nothing at all. While arousal has been shown to improve learning, the effects can be fleeting (Science News, 2010). 

School of Rock & Family Fun at DCM
Although listening to Mozart alone will not enhance learning, there is a growing amount of evidence that suggests playing a musical instrument can enhance skills that can transfer to other academic areas. Nina Kraus, head of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University, explains, “There really is now so much evidence showing that musical experience has a pervasive effect on how the nervous system gets molded and shaped throughout our lifetimes.” Long-term studies now show evidence of lasting changes in brain structure and activity as a result of instrumental music learning.

In the long run, musical training appears to improve verbal as well as nonverbal skills. It can help us to hear better, which allows for fine-tuning the ability to separate sounds in a room full of noise. Musical training may also lead to improvement in grammar, the ability to grasp meaning from words and to distinguish a question from a command (Science News, 2010).

Explore more:
Nina Kraus’ laboratory at Northwestern:

Daniel J. Levitin. This is Your Brain on Music: the Science of a Human Obsession.

Check the DuPage Children's Museum calendar for our Tiny Great Performances and Family Fun Friday Nights.  Events feature many talented, local artists including School of Rock, Naperville. Enjoy the art of dance, instrumental music and much more right here at the Museum!

Ehrenberg, Rachel (2010). Science News, “Music of the Hemispheres.”

Colwell, C. & Humpal, M. (Eds.). Early Childhood and School Age Educational Settings: Using Music to Maximize Learning. Effective Clinical Practice in Music Therapy (pp. 110-119).

Cross, I., Hallam, S. & Thaut, M. (Eds.). (2009). The Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Make Way for Music

Make Way for Music in the FRC
There has been much said about music and its effect on the brain.  It was not so long ago that what many call Mozart Mania found parents, parents-to-be and even early learning professionals in a frenzy of purchasing products that might enhance learning and influence brain development.  Many of us turned to Baby Einstein and similar programs for their promise of giving our children a boost.  So you might wonder, is there any truth to any of the hype?  The publication Science News gives us some insight into how musical sounds and even instrumental playing can affect brain development prenatally and beyond. 

Early Melodies and More
“Babies are born with a musical readiness that includes a basic sense of timing and rhythm,” says psychobiologist Colwyn Trevarthen of the University of Edinburgh. Infants can do much more than pick up beats and mimic melodies.  There are undertones of music that babies can turn into emotional banter with adults who attend to their needs.  Many moms and even dads are guilty of speaking to little ones in an exaggerated mix of high-pitched words, sounds and singing, all of which can have a lasting impact on infants who are attracted to the sounds. This googly-talk can become even more powerful when combined with attentive eye contact and joyful facial expressions.

Trevarthen and like-minded researchers call this wordless conversation “communicative musicality.” Babies’ natural musical aptitude gets them in sync with mothers. (Science News, 2010)

More on music next week!  In the meantime, check the DuPage Children's Museum calendar for Third Thursday events, including Nancy Culp and Make Way for Music each third Thursday of the month in the Family Resource Center from 10:30 until 11 a.m.

Resource: Bower, Bruce (2010). Science News, “Birth of the Beat.”

Friday, March 15, 2013

Beyond Our Walls: School Programs

Simple Machines in Action
DuPage Children's Museum  (DCM) educators, known as LAB R.A.T.S.  (for Radical Approach To the Subject), take a museum full of learning out to area schools. These Learning Labs have been developed to help students understand integrated science, math and art concepts through open-ended exploration.  Mag-lev cars, pulley swings, pneumatic-powered hovercrafts, cylinders and pyramids, cups and socks and water wheels are just some of the innovative learning tools featured! School Program Manager Chris Barry states, “These are unique hands-on learning experiences for children.  Learning through these experiences—experiential learning is really the best way to learn.”

Kids Design Engineering
The labs support classroom curriculum and address Illinois State Goals as well as National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Standards. These programs will continue to be aligned with up and coming Next Generation Science Standards as well as the Common Core State Standards.  Teachers choose from topics in Patterns, Strategies and Number Sense; Magnet Exploration; Estimation Station; GeoSpace; Energy in Our World; Wheels, Levers & Pulleys; Kids Design Engineering; and Simple Machines in Action.  The Learning Labs serve over 25,000 students each year in 40 school districts. 

The fun and learning do not stop there! School Programs offer on-site Learning Lab Field Trips, traditional school field trips, Math and Science Nights and Exhibits-To-Go. 

Take a closer look at what we have to offer. Your classroom could be next! Follow this link to DCM School Progams information online.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Third Thursday: An Accessible Evening for the Entire Family

DuPage Children's Museum is dedicated to being accessible to all children and adults and makes a special effort to accommodate our visitors with special needs. Our exhibits offer ways to work on language development, social skills and purposeful play.

Third Thursday events are held on the third Thursday of each month from 5- 7 p.m. This is a special time for all families, especially families of children with autism spectrum disorder, visual impairments and/or mobility impairments. Cindy Miller, our Community Access Coordinator, acknowledges that for some families, Third Thursday has been a bridge. "Once a child's or family's comfort level within the Museum increased, they started visiting the Museum at other times," she stated.

During Third Thursday, visitors have access to our resource table for information on issues and services related to autism, visual impairments and/or mobility impairments. We are pleased to offer resources and information on upcoming community events, service providers and support organizations in the community. Visitors can find recommendations for using our exhibits for therapeutic benefits.

While parents or caregivers explore the community and informational resources, children can explore the contents of our sensory box, filled with items for visual, auditory and tactile stimulation. This sensory box is available during other visits, if requested, for extra support with visual, auditory or tactile play.

Mark your calendars. The next Third Thursday is March 21!  We will feature a family story time in our S.M.A.R.T. cafĂ©.  For further information about Third Thursday, please contact Cindy Miller, Community Access Coordinator,

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Beyond Our Walls: Professional Development for Teachers & Caregivers

Teachers engage in math-talk
DuPage Children’s Museum hosts a variety of workshops and trainings with local school districts, child care associations and preschools, on- and off-site. Learning concepts that are present within the Museum are extended to show how they can have a lasting impact on the lives of children--even when outside of the Museum!  Last Friday, the Program Department invited teachers from districts all over DuPage County to participate in a workshop titled Science and Math for Early Learners.

As the title suggests, this one-day workshop was filled with information on math and science.  In addition, art and art processes were a major component. The inclusion of art allowed teachers to think beyond math and science to gain an understanding of how art can intersect with other curricular areas and deepen the learning experience.

School Programs Manager Chris Barry gave an engaging presentation on math and science in the classroom. Barry used a balance to show equal and unequal weight distribution with numbers that were weighted according to their value. In the early stages of learning these concepts, children can see that the fulcrum of the balance itself indicates that the numbers are equal or unequal in weight. This activity can be both practical and hands-on, making for a more meaningful learning experience.        
Pattern is art, pattern is math
The Museum’s Interdisciplinary Arts Specialist Marcia MacRae showed teachers how art concepts can be integrated with math and science in early learning. By integrating art and the art process with math and science learning, critical thinking and creativity skills can be enhanced as well! Teachers were encouraged to deepen student’s skills in math and science through processes such as color mixing, patterning, working with shape, lines and more!