Grant to Allow Psychology Students to Work in Living Lab

Posted on November 21st, 2014 by

Students in Professor Kyle Chambers' Advanced Research Methods class had a chance to pilot the Living Lab model last year.

Students in Professor Kyle Chambers’ Advanced Research Methods class had a chance to pilot the Living Lab model last year.

The Center for Developmental Science (CDS) at Gustavus Adolphus College and the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota (CMSM) in Mankato have been awarded a $3,000 stipend from the National Living Laboratory Initiative in Boston that will create unique opportunities for Gustavus psychology students.

The stipend will allow the CDS and the CMSM to create a permanent Living Laboratory in the new location of the Children’s Museum, which is scheduled to open in early 2015. Living Laboratories aim to educate the public about child development by immersing museum visitors in the process of scientific discovery.

According to the National Living Laboratory Initiative’s website, in the Living Laboratory’s educational model, scientists recruit participants and conduct their studies within dynamic exhibits at their local museum, rather than behind closed doors. Families visiting the museum are invited to participate in on-going research projects and to engage in one-on-one conversations with the scientists. Collaborating scientists work closely with informal science educators to communicate the questions and methods of their work to parents and other caregivers via informal conversations and hands-on activities that illustrate recent child development research.

“To our knowledge, this will be the first Living Lab partnership established in Minnesota,” said Kyle Chambers, Associate Professor of Psychological Science and Co-Director of the College’s Center for Developmental Science. “It’s also noteworthy that most Living Lab collaborations involve children’s museums and research universities with graduate programs, not liberal arts colleges, so this is a very special opportunity for our undergraduates.”

Associate Professor Kyle Chambers is the Co-director of the College's Center for Developmental Science.

Associate Professor Kyle Chambers is the Co-director of the College’s Center for Developmental Science.

Chambers says that being involved in a Living Lab partnership has several advantages for developmental psychology students and researchers including access to a larger and more diverse subject pool and the opportunity for students to hone their communication skills with various audiences at the CMSM.

Junior Janey Ross is one Gustavus student who will be taking advantage of the Living Lab collaboration. Last spring, Ross took Chambers’ Advanced Research Methods in Developmental Science course which used the Living Lab model to conduct replications of previous experiments conducted at museums. That class laid the groundwork for the stipend application and recent award.

“It was a small class of 10 students so we got split into three groups and each assigned an experiment,” Ross said. “We re-created the experiment by building the materials ourselves and then we brought the experiment to the Living Lab and did research on our own. It’s a unique and challenging experience. We gained a lot of experience working with the public because we had to approach parents who had no idea what a Living Lab was and explain our research to them.”

Ross has been busy this Fall Semester preparing for the CMSM’s eventual opening by working with Museum staff to iron out the logistics of the relationship and also using the stipend to buy supplies and have professional signage made. She is looking forward to the Spring Semester when she and other Gustavus students can start collecting more data through experiments.

“I’ve always wanted to work with kids, but I didn’t want to be a teacher, so that’s why I decided to study developmental psychology,” Ross said. “Working in a museum has exposed me to another potential career path within the field of developmental psychology.”

Other Gustavus students who are involved with the Center for Developmental Science include Kate Belschner ’16, Allison Birnschein ’17, Alli Conrad ’15, Caroline David ’16, Andrea Garcia ’16, Nick Herzog ’16, Sarah Leavens ’16, Maren Kind ’15, Alyssa Maxson ’16, Gretchan Menze ’15, Neo Mpunga ’15, Emma Nystadius ’15, Allie Renneke ’15, Lili Rothschild ’17, Taylor Sommers ’15, and Callie Van Cleve ’17.

The National Living Lab Initiative is supported by a grant to the Museum of Science, Boston from the National Science Foundation. For more information about the Living Lab model or the Center for Developmental Science at Gustavus, contact Chambers at or visit the CDS website at


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


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