Department of Psychology
Department of Psychology

The Children’s Research Center Strives to be an Innovator and Educational Resource for Campus and Beyond

Wed, November 6, 2019
The Children’s Research Center Strives to be an Innovator and Educational Resource for Campus and Beyond
CRC lab managers (l to r): Cole Dougherty, Shirlyn Sia, Lauren Rosa, Kim Nguyen, Karlos Ramos, Emily Algert

Growing and Learning with the UT Psychology
Children’s Research Center

 

 

 

 

By Avani Chhaya
Senior Outreach Program Coordinator, Children's Research Center

In the maze-like SEA building on the northern edge of campus, you’ll come across a lobby filled with puzzles, toys, and board games belonging to the Children’s Research Center (CRC). The winding hallways connect the 11 individual research labs working to understand how children develop and learn. 

When families visit the CRC, their children read books, solve puzzles, watch puppet shows, play video games, and engage in memory games with researchers. Caregivers are able to get the unique experience of witnessing how their child grapples with a new topic by seeing how they distinguish fantasy from reality, engage with scientific learning games, determine cause and effect, evaluate sources of information, understand sequential timelines, and more. The CRC then turns these research findings into best practices, resources, and interventions for families and schools. 

“We strive to support parents in their roles as caretakers and educators of our youngest, budding scientists,” says Prof. David Yeager, director of the CRC. “The purpose of our research is to deepen our understanding of child development and to share our love of learning with our families and community partners.”

Additionally, the research center supports approximately 150 undergraduate research assistants, along with graduate students, on a semesterly basis to gain vital research skills. Students learn how to code, design experiments, and professionally work with families for research sessions. 

“Working as a research assistant in the Language Development Lab at the CRC has allowed me to foster stronger skills regarding critical thinking, leadership and responsibility, analysis, administration, and of course, research,” said Anna Sung, a research assistant and undergraduate student. “Through this opportunity, I have also been able to strengthen interpersonal skills such as communication and quick thinking by being exposed to a variety of different situations, as well as by working with participants, parents, and fellow CRC lab members.”

Since its founding in 1982 as the Children’s Research Lab (CRL), the lab continues to innovate new programs for the betterment of the community. In 2017, the CRL became the Children’s Research Center, bringing together individual labs for collaboration to improve programs for children and families through research. 

"The Children's Research Center is one of the crown jewels of the Department of Psychology,” said Dr. Jacqueline Woolley, Professor and recent chair of the Department of Psychology. “The CRC offers a unique opportunity for faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and families from the community to work together to advance our understanding of child development."

The CRC has since been named the first green research center on campus, bringing sustainable programs to all of the labs and office spaces within the organization through UT’s Green Offices and Green Labs program. 

"The Green Labs program has been a great learning experience for myself and the RAs in my lab,” said Lauren Rosa, the lab manager for the Little Learners Lab. “It's implementing simple green practices such as remembering to turn the lights off, keeping a scrap paper stack for notes, and encouraging our lab members to use alternative transportation such as bikes or buses. I think it's made us all more aware of the impact our choices have on the planet even after we leave the lab.”

This most recent year marked the CRC’s first annual food drive and book giveaway. The food drive collected 101 food items benefiting UT Outpost, a food pantry that supports UT Austin students who are dealing with food insecurity issues. The research center also partnered with SEAL, Students Expanding Austin Literacy, and gave away about 350 books to families at multiple community centers in Austin. 

More than just a research center, the Children’s Research Center continues to strive to be an educational resource and community institution for campus and beyond.

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