Theories of Learning
The Children’s Museum Alliance, Inc has based all its work on a particular set of learning theories conducive to personal exploration and discovery by children. We promote excellence in education by meeting the needs of children cognitively, socially and physically through activities that are designed to be developmentally appropriate. These developmental years are not just a time to educate but they are your obligation to form a brain and if you miss them you have missed them forever.” --Michael Phelps. Co-inventor of the PET Scan
The primary theories reflected in our museum include:
- Discovery Learning - The primary theory used in the design of exhibits and activities, as it is a highly motivating method of personalizing the learning experiences, allowing individuals the opportunity to experiment and discover for themselves. It fosters curiosity and supports the active engagement of the learner throughout the learning process. Discovery learning is built upon the use of a learner’s prior knowledge, experiences, and understandings. This style of learning makes the learner responsible for their own outcomes, while developing a sense of independence and autonomy as well as skills in problem solving and critical thinking.
- Piaget - Considers that play is vitally related to cognitive development as it helps children construct knowledge and make sense of their world. Jean Piaget promoted inquiry-based learning that focused on children as active learners in their environment, and included activities that are child-directed, and child-centered.
- Montessori – A type of learning designed by Marie Montessori, that included a prepared environment and individual learning opportunities and emphasized a child’s involvement in the learning process, as a self-directed and motivated individual.
- Dewey – A form of experiential learning and child-centered activities promoted by John Dewey that are motivating and interactive, and built upon a child’s interest level.
- Froebel - A belief that was developed by Friedrich Froebel, the father of kindergarten, that the best medium for the natural unfolding of knowledge is play which allows children to conduct a thorough exploration of the world given a stimulating environment and being allowed self-directed activities.
- Gardner – The Multiple Intelligences, describes an array of different types of intelligences exhibited by all individuals and promotes activities that include these nine ways of learning. This process was designed by Howard Gardner and used by many educators to support differentiated instruction.
“The ability to play is instrumental in scientific exploration, discovery and all forms of creativity!” --Albert Einstein
A primary focus of the future children’s museum is based on the very basic foundational principle of the importance of play. Play is what children do and it is what they need. It is the vehicle through which much innovation and learning occurs. We know that at certain ages, given quality opportunities to play, children will develop within the set age appropriate norms demonstrating success in school and possessing positive outcomes as adults. Children develop in preset stages that include:
- Personality is set by age 3
- Behavior patterns are fixed by age 5
- Learning styles are identified by age 5
- Language patterns are established prior to age 7
- Learning from play will be imprinted for the rest of a child’s life