Impact of Children’s Museums
Libraries and museums have a long history of serving young children. They are virtually everywhere-from the smallest tribal community to the largest metropolitan area. As community repositories of literature, science, and heritage, museums and libraries build on how children learn best, by designing and delivering content-rich, play-based experiences that link early learning best practice to books, exhibits, and collections. Their resources prompt parents and caregivers to explore, pose questions, make connections, exchange information and ideas, and instill in young children not only a love of learning, but also the skills for learning. It is this established expertise that makes museums and libraries such valuable assets in community-wide efforts to promote early learning. The emerging learning landscape makes their participation imperative. This new landscape redefines where, when, and how learning occurs, calling for innovative environments where skills are developed across domains and knowledge is transferred from one situation to another, ultimately building the capacity to work in a world where “how to know” is as important as “what to know.”
Contributing to this expanded view of where, when, and how learning takes place is a growing body of research that draws attention to an important set of foundation skills, anchored in children’s early social-emotional development. Known as executive function, these skills are key to a child’s earliest brain development, building focus and self-control, perspective taking, communication, and making connections. In the process of developing these executive function skills, children use their social, emotional, and cognitive capacities in pursuit of goals. These skills are the “how” of learning, enabling children to master the “what” of learning—reading, writing, social studies, and STEM concepts. Taken together, they help children become self-directed, engaged learners.
Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners. Howard, M.L. (2013). Institute of Museum and Library Services.