Supermarket as school


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Educators know the power of experiential, place-based education: Children learn more effectively when they glean information and understanding from everyday surroundings and activities. But school often isn’t the place where those activities occur. 

Now, a new study shows that, in at least one key way, a supermarket can do the job.
 
A team of child psychologists placed conversation-starting signs in low-income neighborhoods’ supermarkets. One in front of the milk cooler said, “I come from a cow. Can you find other things in the store that come from a cow?” Psychologists then observed interactions between parent and child when families encountered the signs.
 
The signs boosted meaningful parent-child conversations by 33 percent. Instead of saying “Mommy, can we buy this?”, the child might say instead, “What’s a cow?” The signs raised parent-child interactions to a level and frequency common in stores serving middle-class or richer neighborhoods.
 
Researchers hope these kinds of environmental prompts can improve disadvantaged children’s readiness for success in school. Next, they’ll see if they can boost math skills by putting prompts at the checkout counter.
 
TRENDPOST: School, with its focus on classroom-based experiences, can be a difficult place to learn broadly, especially for children in low-income areas. Schools may be suited to impart basic knowledge or offer specialized courses, but students’ neighborhoods can be the richest context for learning. Next: Persuading stores in community locales of their roles in education – and coaching parents to recognize teachable moments in everyday life.

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