Cultural Differences in Informal Family Learning at a Children's Museum

Suzanne Gaskins

October 12, 2010 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Harris School of Public Policy Studies
1155 E. 60th St.
Room 224

Presented by Suzanne Gaskins, Professor of Psychology at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago and Visiting Scholar at the CPC for the 2010-11 academic year.

Most children's museums are founded on two related principles: children learn best through play and caregivers should foster that learning by organizing and participating in their children's playful learning. This workshop will discuss evidence that not all visitors share these two principles. The patterns of interaction found in three distinct cultural groups (European-American, African-American, and Latino) will be described. It will be argued that museums need to recognize the cultural foundation of their assumptions about how children learn through family interaction and acknowledge that there is sometimes a mismatch between museum and visitor understandings. Rather than judge families' culturally specific approaches as flawed and attempt to teach culturally diverse visitors the ";right way"; of organizing their museum visit, museums should develop exhibits and activities that support multiple ethnotheories of learning and prepare their staff to respect a variety of beliefs and practices in their visitors.

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