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High School Psychology Students Visit the Living Lab

Many teachers bring their elementary classes to Science World for workshops in chemistry or gallery experiences in BodyWorks and Search. Danniel Lin, a teacher from Earl Mariott Secondary, brought his grade 12 psychology students to experience the Living Lab.

The Living Lab is a partnership between Science World and the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia (UBC). It is funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation. In the Living Lab, Science World visitors work directly with UBC researchers who are studying cognitive development. The researchers are here every day conducting studies that help answer questions about how and when children develop moral reasoning, empathy and other kinds of social reasoning. When Danniel Lin saw the Living Lab on a personal visit to Science World, he reached out to director, Dr Andy Baron to help him invent a great fieldtrip experience for his students.

I had the privilege of tagging along.

In his presentation, Dr Baron introduced the students to the fundamental question of psychology research: what makes our minds work the way they do? Graduate students Anthea Pun and Antonya Gonzalez gave us a peek into their own interest in the subject and demonstrated the studies that they run at Science World (including some video of the studies in action).

Most of the science we study in high school is the result of research questions that have already been asked and answered, so it’s unique for grade 12 students to learn about open questions and to see studies where the results have so far been inconclusive. For example, Antonya described how she’s modifying her methodology in the hope of getting clearer results about the effect of stereotypes on a child’s ability to do math puzzles.

The students had a wide range of questions for Dr Baron and his team. They wanted to know how ethical considerations are addressed in research. For example, how do scientists get permission to experiment with children’s minds? They were assured that the university has a careful and complete ethical review process. They also wondered why researchers were studying stereotypes in math (rather than other subjects)? It turns out that there is still an obvious gender imbalance. Antonya found this interesting because she is interested in helping children avoid being influenced by stereotypes. When the students asked if the scientists studied their own children, they said, "Not formally."

Following the presentations, the students had a chance to see the Living Lab in action and to participate in some of the studies themselves. And of course, they had time to explore the exhibit galleries and demonstration shows. Science fun, a window into the research world, and an introduction to a potential career—all in a day at TELUS World of Science.

Find out more about the Living Lab.