Category Archives: Institute of Child Development

CEED to establish international center for reflective practice

The Center for Early Education and Development (CEED) in the Institute of Child Development has received a $1 million grant from the Lynne & Andrew Redleaf Foundation to establish a center that will focus on reflective practice in infant and early childhood mental health.

Reflective practice is a professional development approach that encourages individuals to pay attention to relationships as they examine behavior and their responses to behavior. In the infant and early childhood mental health field, reflective practice asks practitioners to explore how they relate to the children and families they work with, who may be facing multiple challenges and risks. Practitioners engage in reflective practice in partnership with a supervisor or consultant.

The new CEED center will serve as an intellectual home for high-quality, cutting-edge research in reflective practice. It will also disseminate knowledge about reflective practice, help professionals incorporate reflective practice principles into their work, and inform policy dealing with infant and early childhood mental health. The center will be the first of its kind internationally.

“We are grateful to the Lynne & Andrew Redleaf Foundation for their support as we work to impact infant and early childhood programs and providers, both in Minnesota and across the country,” says Christopher Watson, Ph.D., IMH-E®[IV], director of the new center at CEED. “This generous gift will allow CEED to bolster its work in reflective supervision and to better support staff who serve families facing complex challenges. We look forward to carrying out this work in an effort to improve developmental outcomes for infants and young children.”

ICD graduate, Rachel Boettcher, receives CEHD Rising Alumni award

Rachel Boettcher, M.Ed., '15
Rachel Boettcher, M.Ed., ’15

Rachel Boettcher, an alumna of the Institute of Child Development (ICD), is a 2017 recipient of the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) Alumni Society’s Rising Alumni award. Boettcher, earned a B.S. in early childhood education foundations in 2008 and an M.Ed. in early childhood education in 2015.

The CEHD Rising Alumni award recognizes alumni who have achieved early distinction in their career (15 years or less since graduation), demonstrated emerging leadership, or shown exceptional volunteer service in their communities.

Boettcher currently serves as program director of Caring for Kids at Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners, where she is working to close the opportunity gap and provide access to high quality early education programs for children living in poverty. In her role, she partners with school districts and community agencies to increase investment in early learning.

“We are so pleased to see Rachel’s important work in securing high quality early childhood programming for families at risk recognized by CEHD,” said Ann Ruhl Carlson, M.Ed., coordinator of early childhood programs in ICD. “Throughout her budding career, she has used what she learned and practiced during her undergraduate and graduate programs in early childhood education to make a difference in the world.”

ICD hosts community symposium on play

ICD faculty member Stephanie Carlson, Ph.D., presents at the community symposium.On May 15, the Institute of Child Development (ICD) hosted a community symposium on the importance of play for learning.

For the symposium, which was co-hosted by the Minnesota Children’s Museum, ICD faculty and staff presented cutting-edge research on play and discussed why it is critical to child development.

Presentations covered topics including play’s impact on a child’s understanding of math, how play influences the development of executive function, and how the Children’s Theatre Company is incorporating research into a preschool storytelling program. Each presentation was followed by a play-based activity that asked participants to explore what they learned.

Experts from the Minnesota Children’s Museum also provided a sneak peek of their new facility and exhibits, which will open to the public on June 7.

To learn more about why play is critical to learning and child development, read the following articles from Connect, the College of Education and Human Development’s alumni magazine.

  • The power of play:” Play is essential for learning and growing, but it doesn’t get the respect it deserves. New research is changing that.
  • Play lab:” Children lead at the U’s laboratory preschool
  • Setting the stage for learning:” Supporting early literacy through theater arts

ICD undergraduate receives Fulbright Award

Sydney Carlson
Sydney Carlson

Sydney Carlson, a senior majoring in child psychology in the Institute of Child Development, has been awarded a Fulbright-related U.S. teaching assistantship by the Austrian government.

Carlson is among 13 students and alumni from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities to be awarded a Fulbright grant during the 2017-18 academic year.

Congress created the Fulbright Program in 1946 to promote international good will through the exchange of students and scholars. The program awards approximately 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study and operates in more than 140 countries.

When she returns from Austria, Carlson plans to pursue an M.A. and specialist certificate in education and school psychological services from the Department of Educational Psychology.

ICD undergraduate Erica Smolinski receives research fellowship

Erica Smolinski
Erica Smolinski

Erica Smolinski, an undergraduate child psychology student in the Institute of Child Development (ICD), has received a $2,000 fellowship from the International Congress on Infant Studies (ICIS). This is the first year ICIS has awarded grants to support undergraduate student research.

The fellowship will support Smolinski’s summer research project, which will examine differences in how mothers imagine their unborn child and their relationship with the child, as well as how family planning may be associated with these differences. The project will leverage data from the Women and Infants Study of Health, Emotions, and Stress (WISHES), a study led by ICD doctoral student Colleen Doyle. Smolinski will be mentored by Megan Gunnar, Ph.D., director of the Institute.

ICD doctoral student Madelyn Labella honored with P.E.O. scholarship

Madelyn Labella
Madelyn Labella

Madelyn Labella, a Ph.D. candidate in the Institute of Child Development, has been selected to receive a P.E.O. Scholar Award. The P.E.O. Sisterhood is a philanthropic educational organization dedicated to supporting higher education for women. Labella was nominated for the P.E.O. Scholar Award by Chapter R of St. Paul, Minn., and was one of 100 doctoral students from across the U.S. and Canada selected to receive a $15,000 scholarship.

CEHD research on the development of autism featured in Spectrum

L-R: Jed Elison, Jason Wolff

Jason Wolff, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s special education program, was recently featured in a Spectrum article about his research using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in infants whose older siblings have autism. Wolff worked with a national team of researchers, including Jed Elison from the Institute for Child Development, on the study. Wolff and colleagues found that the development of specific brain circuits may predict the severity of repetitive and sensory behaviors in infants who later develop autism.

In the article, Spectrum explains, “repetitive behaviors, such as hand flapping, are a cardinal sign of autism”, and “children with these severe repetitive behaviors often also have unusual sensory features, such as sensitivities to sounds or textures or an insensitivity to pain.”

Wolff expands on this. “They both (repetitive behaviors and unusual sensory features) seem to share a similar relationship with underlying neural circuitry,” he says.

Read the full article.

ICD doctoral student Elizabeth Sharer awarded fellowship from Autism Science Foundation

Elizabeth Sharer Headshot
Elizabeth Sharer

Elizabeth Sharer, a Ph.D. candidate in the Institute of Child Development, has received a $25,000 one-year, pre-doctoral fellowship from the Autism Science Foundation (ASF).

This year, ASF awarded three pre-doctoral and six post-doctoral fellowship grants to student and mentor teams conducting research in deep brain stimulation, gene and environmental interactions, epigenetics, pain response, neurobiology, and sex differences in autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

“Each of the projects selected for funding has the potential to improve the lives of people with autism,” said Autism Science Foundation President Alison Singer. “We are pleased to support the work of this impressive group of young scientists and look forward to the progress that will be made as a result of their efforts.”

For her research, Sharer will examine the female protective effect in infants with ASD. Four times as many boys as girls are diagnosed with autism, and evidence suggests a “female protective effect” as one explanation for the sex bias.

Sharer’s study will be the first study to investigate the female protective effect in infants who show behaviors of concern, compared with those who develop typically and those who are later diagnosed with ASD. Sharer will be mentored by ICD Assistant Professor Jed Elison, Ph.D.

Gunnar Lab research opportunities

The Immune Study: Ages 14–20 Needed

group of cheerful high school students friendsEvery day we are learning more about how childhood sets up trajectories of health and well-being. However, we have much more to learn. With our continuation of the Immune Study, we will examine how differences in early experiences are associated with differences in functioning of actual immune cells. To do this, we will be collecting blood samples from internationally adopted and non-adopted adolescents and young adults. Dr. Coe will isolate immune cells from these blood samples, and examine how they respond to various immune system challenges, like viruses or pollen, in a test tube. Participants will complete some questionnaires and saliva samples at home, and visit us at the U of MN to give a blood sample and have their temperature and blood pressure taken. They will be compensated up to $50 for participating. If you are interested in learning more about the Immune Study, email us at immune.umn@gmail.com.

This summer we continuing our Immune study, and now we have a special opportunity to add the study of the microbiome! If you are interested in learning more about the microbiome, check out this short YouTube video from NPR on how our immune cells and the microbiome inside of us work together to help us stay healthy.

Follow-up to the Transition into the Family Study

Elementary school girl raising her hand in classSeeking: Families who previously participated in any portion of the Transition into the Family Study, whose children are currently between the ages of 8 and 11 years.

Middle childhood is a time when children start to gain more independence, and peer interactions become more complex. Building on the Kindergarten study, we are interested in how older children interact with unfamiliar peers, and how early life experiences may influence these interactions.

Your child would be asked to visit the U of MN campus one time over the summer and participate in various tasks with another child his or her age. Eligible participants will receive up to $20-$40 compensation and free parking.

For more information, please call 732-864-7953 or email depas010@umn.edu.

Genetic testing among adult adoptees

Through scientific advancements and decreased costs in genetic testing, many internationally adopted individuals now have the potential opportunity to learn more about their health history and genetic ancestry through inexpensive direct-to-consumer genetic testing kits, such as 23andMe. However, very little is known about people’s attitude, interest, and knowledge about genetic testing within the adoption community, as well as what factors predict people’s interests in genetic testing. We also do not know what kinds of information people are seeking or not seeking from genetic testing and how they would use such information. To address these gaps, we aim to identify reasons why internationally adopted individuals may choose to complete or abstain from genetic testing. We will also look at how the information given in direct-to-consumer genetic testing kits relates to experiences as adoptees.

We are seeking to recruit 60 internationally adopted individuals between the ages of 18 to 35 years old. Study participants will complete a brief online survey that asks questions about their attitude, interest and knowledge about genetic testing, personal and social experiences, adoption specific experiences, and basic demographics. The survey will take no longer than 30 minutes to complete. Participants will receive a $10 Amazon gift card at the completion of the study.

This research hopes to aid in the understanding of what influences internationally adopted individuals decision-making process when considering whether to have genetic testing done when this new advanced technology is readily available. If you are interested in participating in this study or would like more information, please email the Familee Lab.

Williams Ridge presents at Children & Nature Network annual conference

Headshot of Sheila Williams Ridge
Sheila Williams Ridge

Sheila Williams Ridge, director of the Shirley G. Moore Lab School in the Institute of Child Development, presented at the 2017 Children & Nature Network (C&NN) International Conference and Summit.

C&NN aims to connect children, families, and communities to nature through innovative ideas and evidence-based resources. The theme for the 2017 conference was, “Kids Need Nature, Nature Needs Kids.”

During the conference, Williams Ridge spoke about tailoring outdoor learning opportunities to children’s specific developmental needs, depending on their age. She also moderated a panel about best practices for nature-based learning in the early childhood field.

CE+HD Connect Magazine highlights CEED research on children’s theater program

A recent article in CE+HD Connect magazine discussed research by the Center for Early Education and Development that is examining the effectiveness of a children’s theater program. The story is one of three articles about play that appear in the magazine’s Spring/Summer 2017 issue.

Early Bridges is a preschool theater arts outreach program developed by the Minneapolis-based Children’s Theatre Company (CTC). Early Bridges aims to build early literacy through interactive storytelling and theater arts.

Through a research collaboration with CTC, CEED evaluates Early Bridges’ impact, such as whether students show improvement in certain areas. CEED also has helped develop new measures and rubrics for the program, which incorporate both theater arts and child development theory.

To learn more about Early Bridges and CEED’s research, read the full story, “Setting the stage for learning,” or register for ICD’s Community Symposium on “The Importance of Play for Learning.” The symposium will take place on May 15 at 8:30 a.m. at the University of Minnesota McNamara Alumni Center.

Shirley G. Moore Lab School featured in CE+HD Connect Magazine

The Shirley G. Moore Lab School in the Institute of Child Development was profiled in a recent article in CE+HD Connect magazine, which highlighted the school’s focus on play-based learning. The story is one of three articles about play that appear in the magazine’s Spring/Summer 2017 issue.

To learn more about the Shirley G. Moore Lab School and how it incorporates play into its curriculum, read the full story, “Play lab,” or register for ICD’s Community Symposium on “The Importance of Play for Learning.” The symposium will take place on May 15 at 8:30 a.m. at the University of Minnesota McNamara Alumni Center.

 

Masten speaks at UN Psychology Day

Dr. Ann Masten
Dr. Ann Masten

Ann Masten,  Ph.D., Regents Professor and Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Development in the Institute of Child Development, spoke at the 10th Annual Psychology Day at the United Nations (UN) on April 20, 2017.

Psychology Day at the UN is an annual event that highlights how psychological science and practice contribute to the UN agenda. It’s attended by UN staff, ambassadors and diplomats, non-governmental organizations, members of the public and private sectors, and other stakeholders.

This year’s theme was “Promoting Well-being in the 21st Century: Psychological Contributions for Social, Economic, and Environmental Challenges.” The topic was chosen to align with the inclusion of well-being in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted in 2015 and outlines the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. In her remarks, Masten addressed the economic pillar by discussing her research on competence, risk, and resilience in development.

Thompson receives award for excellence in early childhood education

Ross Thompson

Ross Thompson, M.Ed., a teaching specialist at the Institute of Child Development’s Shirley G. Moore Lab School, has received the 2017 Kate Davidson Tanner Award from the Minnesota Association for the Education of Young Children (MnAEYC).

MnAEYC is a professional association devoted to representing early child care and youth programs across Minnesota. The annual award recognizes an early childhood professional who demonstrates excellence in his or her profession.

In 2005, Thompson started his career at the lab school, where he completed his student teaching experience and held various roles for the following two years. He has been a full-time lead teacher for the school’s multi-age morning preschool class since 2007.

CE+HD Connect Magazine spotlights ICD research on play

Research conducted by faculty in the Institute of Child Development (ICD) is demonstrating the importance of play for learning, according to a new article in CE+HD’s Connect magazine. The story is one of three articles about play that appear in the magazine’s Spring/Summer 2017 issue.

The article highlighted a recent study by Stephanie Carlson, Ph.D., a Distinguished McKnight University Professor in ICD, and colleagues that examined the “Batman Effect,” or how impersonating superheroes during pretend play can help children be more controlled and objective.

The piece also discussed how experts at the Minnesota Children’s Museum are incorporating ICD research into their exhibit and experience designs. The university is part of a research advisory committee for the museum.

To learn more about how play impacts learning and how the Minnesota Children’s Museum is putting research into practice, read the full story, “The power of play,” or register for ICD’s Community Symposium on “The Importance of Play for Learning.” The symposium will take place on May 15 at 8:30 a.m. at the University of Minnesota McNamara Alumni Center.

American Academy of Arts and Sciences honors Megan Gunnar

Megan Gunnar

Megan Gunnar, director of the Institute of Child Development in the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), has been elected to the 2017 class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is one of three University of Minnesota professors and 228 national and international scholars, artists, philanthropists, and business leaders elected this year.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is one of the country’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers. This is the 237th class of members elected. It includes winners of the Pulitzer Prize and the Wolf Prize, MacArthur Fellows, Fields Medalists, Presidential Medal of Freedom and National Medal of Arts recipients, and Academy Award, Grammy Award, Emmy Award, and Tony Award winners.

Gunnar is one of the nation’s leading researchers in child development and developmental psychobiology. Her work focuses on understanding how stress early in life “gets under the skin” to shape the body’s stress response systems and neurobehavioral development.

“Professor Gunnar is an exceptional faculty member whose research and leadership in her field has improved the lives of many children,” said Jean Quam, CEHD dean. “The University of Minnesota and the College of Education and Human Development are extremely proud of her accomplishments.”

Gunnar holds the University’s highest faculty honors as both a Regents Professor and Distinguished McKnight University Professor. She was recently elected to the National Academy of Education and has been honored with lifetime achievement awards by the American Psychological Association, Division 7 Developmental Psychology, the Society for Research in Child Development, and the Association for Psychological Science. Gunnar has a Ph.D. from Stanford University.

The 2017 class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences will be inducted at a ceremony on October 7, 2017, in Cambridge, MA.

ICD student Laura Thomas awarded research grant from Autism Science Foundation

Laura ThomasLaura Thomas, an undergraduate child psychology student in the Institute of Child Development, has received an undergraduate summer research grant from the Autism Science Foundation. The grant will cover eight weeks of research at the University of Minnesota.

This year, six grants were awarded to highly-accomplished undergraduates who plan to conduct research in the genetics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), impulse control in adolescents, restricted and repetitive behaviors, brain development and function, and employment challenges.

Thomas’ research will focus on the amygdala, an area of the brain affected in adults with autism. Her project will examine the function of the amygdala in toddlers to help better understand the biological basis of attention problems in young children. If identified early, problems may be responsive to treatment.

Williams Ridge receives director’s award

Headshot of Sheila Williams Ridge
Sheila Williams Ridge

Sheila Williams Ridge, M.A., director of the Shirley G. Moore Lab School in the Institute of Child Development, received the 2016 Director’s Award from the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE).

NAAEE is a membership organization that aims to accelerate environmental literacy and civic engagement through education. The Director’s Award recognizes an individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to the field of environmental education.

Williams Ridge was recognized for her work chairing the 2016 Nature-based Preschool Conference, the annual conference of NAAEE’s early childhood environmental education initiative, the Natural Start Alliance.

In addition, Williams-Ridge is on the advisory team for the Natural Start Alliance and the National Science Foundation-funded Science of Nature-Based Learning Collaborative Research Network. She also serves on the leadership team for the Council of Nature and Forest Preschools.

ICD ranked #1 developmental psychology program by U.S. News

Photo of ICD buildingThe developmental psychology program in the Institute of Child Development (ICD) is #1 in the country,  according to the 2018 U.S. News and World Report rankings of graduate schools.

Founded in 1925, ICD is one of the oldest departments studying children’s development in the country. The Institute contributes to interdisciplinary programs in interpersonal relationships, prevention science, and infant and early childhood mental health. It also contributes groundbreaking research to the field of child development, including on topics related to executive function, resilience and autism.

Learn more about ICD’s top-rated graduate program.

To determine the rankings, U.S. News surveyed 379 schools granting education doctoral degrees. It calculates rankings based on quality assessments from peer institutions and school superintendents nationwide, student selectivity, and faculty research and resources, which includes student/faculty ratio and faculty awards as well as support for research.

Other College of Education and Human Development programs that were top-ranked in this year’s report include special education, which ranked #8, and educational psychology, which ranked #9.

“Our college continues to reach new heights of excellence in graduate teaching, research, and outreach,” said Dean Jean K. Quam. “We are focused on improving the lives of students across Minnesota, the nation, and the world.”

 

Carlson awarded Distinguished McKnight University Professorship

Stephanie Carlson, Ph.D.
Stephanie Carlson, Ph.D.

Stephanie M. Carlson, Ph.D., professor and director of research in the Institute of Child Development, has been awarded the Distinguished McKnight University Professorship, which honors the University of Minnesota’s highest-achieving mid-career faculty. Carlson is an internationally recognized leader in the study of executive function.

As a Distinguished McKnight University Professor, Carlson will receive a $100,000 grant for research and scholarly activities, and carry the title throughout her University career. Carlson is one of six University professors receiving the award in 2017. Three CEHD professors have earned the award previously, including Frank Symons of educational psychology, and Megan Gunnar and Ann Masten, both in the Institute of Child Development.

Through her research, Carlson has developed innovative ways of measuring executive function – or the set of skills that helps individuals pay attention, control impulses and think flexibly – in very young children. She has also made discoveries about the role of executive function in other aspects of human development, including decision-making and creativity.

Her accomplishments include co-developing the Minnesota Executive Function Scale (MEFS), a testing app that measures executive function and early learning readiness in children. The MEFS is the only early learning readiness assessment measuring executive function that can be used with children as young as two years old. To help put the tool in the hands of early educators, she co-founded the tech start-up Reflection Sciences and now serves as its CEO.

Stephanie Carlson and ICD Director Megan Gunnar, Ph.D.
Carlson and ICD Director Megan Gunnar, Ph.D.

“Stephanie Carlson not only has conducted ground-breaking research that has advanced the field of cognitive development, but she also has developed practical tools for early educators,” said CEHD Dean Jean Quam. “She is an engaged professor, researcher and mentor to her students, and an outstanding asset to the college.”

Carlson and the other winners of this year’s Distinguished McKnight University Professorships will be recognized at the May Board of Regents meeting and honored at a celebratory dinner.