PRYDE got me working with kids IRL (not just in the lab)

 Rebecca Li, PRYDE Scholar

Rebecca Li, PRYDE Scholar

Since the end of my freshmen year, I have been involved with the Early Childhood Cognition Lab here at Cornell University. The lab's main focus is to understand how young children learn about the world and about themselves. As a human development major, I enjoy integrating theories of child development I learn in classes into the research I conduct. Since the lab primarily focuses on the development of young children, we use fun interactive games to measure and answer the research questions we ask. To find study participants, I have mainly reached out to families at the Sciencenter (a kid’s science museum in Ithaca, NY). There we talk to parents who stop by the Sciencenter’s Living Laboratory about the current research studies, and we ask if their child would be interested in participating in a study. We have also invited families to our Cornell lab to participate. As a PRYDE scholar, I gained new experiences in engaging with communities directly and interacting with children in 4-H programs.

When I first joined PRYDE, I was excited about the ability to integrate research and scientific knowledge directly into communities to promote youth development. Working with PRYDE has provided me the opportunity to interact with various local programs, and a different population of children than I normally am involved with. As I work alongside teachers and students, I can observe the daily activities children participate in, and understand the lives of each individual child.

One of the first programs I was connected with was the 4-H Urban Outreach Program, participating in their weekly activities and interacting with elementary-school-aged children. The more I talked with the kids, the more I became aware of what they enjoy and what they fear. I love seeing their smiles and hearing their laughter, and I especially enjoy seeing the happiness and pride young children have after completing difficult tasks.

One Thursday afternoon, I participated in the program’s activity where the children split off into groups and participated in relay races. One of the hardest tasks that they had to complete was to move a ball from one end of the court using a contraception. This contraption had a ring in the middle where the ball would lie on top of and five strings that extended from this ring. By pulling on each string, a team of five had to move the ball across the court. The children expressed their difficulties verbally, and sometimes they would displace their frustrations onto other team members. Through reminders, encouragement, and patience, the children eventually successfully completed the task, and enjoyed the bubbles they received as prizes.

This was different from the times I interacted with the children at the Sciencenter or at the lab. Instead of inviting children to the environment at the lab, I was immersed into the children’s average day. The afterschool programs are a place where the children feel like they are at home, and are free to express themselves openly. The children already formed lasting relationships with the teachers, program leaders, and peers. Working within the community exposed me to the different techniques teachers used to engage with children, and the dynamic interactions that occur.

Participating in this program reinforced my desire to help children gain motivation, especially during difficult academic or life challenges. I strongly believe that the skills of resilience they gain during early childhood will guide them during challenging times in adolescence and adulthood. I am excited to continue to work with 4-H programs and summer camps, and I hope to investigate the ways children learn about themselves.

Rebecca LiComment