Research and Affiliates


Arlitt Center Funded Projects

  • NSF Outdoor PlayScape Preschool Learning Grant 2016

Summary: The National Science Foundation awarded the Arlitt Center for Education, Research, and Sustainability a three-year, $1,635,115 grant (DRL#114674) to build professional support for teachers and to continue research into early childhood learning in designed outdoor play and learning environments called PlayScapes. The grant, believed to be the largest of its kind awarded to the Arlitt Center, builds on the success of early childhood science learning through UC's PlayScape partnership with the Cincinnati Nature Center. More information is located in the link above.

PNC Grow Up Great with Science Grant 2009-2011

Summary: In 2009 the Cincinnati Nature Center (CNC), Clermont Child Focus Center, and Arlitt Child and Family Research and Education Center partnered for a PNC Grow Up Great with Science grant. As part of this project teachers from Child Focus will participate in a 14 week teacher training program that includes workshops at CNC and an online course through University of Cincinnati taught by Mary Beth Wright-Meyers and Dr. Victoria Carr. The content of the online course is based on Chalufour & Worths Discovering Nature with Young Children (2003).

Specific Aims: Teacher training for this project will consist of an inquiry-based curriculum, supporting teachers in 1) engaging children with topic-specific phenomena, 2) using scientific instructional representations, 3) anticipating understanding and dealing with childrens' ideas about science, 4) engaging children in questions, 5) engaging children with collecting and analyzing data, 6) engaging children in designing investigations, 7) engaging children in making explanations based on evidence, 8) promoting scientific communication, and 9) developing subject matter knowledge. Thus, teachers can acquire environmental science content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge that is developmentally appropriate for preschool children.

Evaluating the outcomes of this course will involve qualitative and quanititative research with 216 children and their families over two years. Specific research questions include:

  1. Do teachers increase their confidence and efficacy in environmental science education?
  2. What inquiry strategies will teachers employ to support ecoliteracy development and knowledge for preschool children in their classrooms?
  3. Do families promote nature study at home and visit the nature center with their children?
  4. Do child outcomes in ecoliteracy increase?

Cincinnati's Nature PlayScape Initiative (NPI) 2008-2011

Summary: This initiative began with a generous grant from the Harriette Downey foundation to the Cincinnati Nature Center (CNC) with a stipulation that they must partner with a University of Cincinnati organization. The CNC, having many programs, classes and camps for young people, is aware of the profound impact that meaningful contact with nature can have for children. This interest corresponds with the Arlitt Child and Family Research and Education Centers mission of refining and implementing best practices in early childhood education. The organizations directors, Bill Hopple (CNC) and Dr. Victoria Carr (Arlitt) formed a partnership over their shared interest in playscapes, or landscapes for play. This concept, coined by Joe Frost, internationally-known expert in child development and play-ground equipment safety at the University of Texas, has become a popular phrase amongst educators, environmentalists, and naturalists. Playscapes are part of a growing movement to reconnect children with nature (for more information see Children & Nature Network and Leave No Child Inside of Greater Cincinnati. In order to implement emerging concepts of playground design the CNC and Arlitt Center enlisted the consultancy of Robin Moore of the Natural Learning Initiative at NC State University. He is an internationally recognized playscape designer and his organization also contributes academic research to the fields of education and environmental design.

Specific Aims: As part of the Downey grant, the Cincinnati Playscape Initiative chose two goals: 1) to build two demonstration playscapes that could inspire other organization, and 2) to educate local landscape architects on best practices for playscape design. Both CNC and Arlitt began the process of planning their playscapes in late 2008 by hiring Robin Moore to develop programming documents and conceptual plans for each site. The new CNC masterplan devoted 1.5 acres to a playscape and the Arlitt Center is negotiating with the University of Cincinnati to build a playscape on campus. The Initiative consulted the Community Design Center, part of the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning, to coordinate a professional development program to train local landscape architects. Robin Moore was invited to lead 8 landscape architects and 4 community leaders through seminars on various topics in playscape design. The course culminated, in summer 2009, with a practicum project for which each participant chose a site and designed a playscape to be evaluated by Robin Moore. Four landscape architects chose to design for the Arlitt Center, one of whom was given the commission. As of late 2009 both CNC and Arlitt Center are both planning their playscapes, hoping to complete the first phases in summer 2010.

Head Start - University Partnership Grant 2002-2007

Summary: Research fellows from the Arlitt Child and Family Research and Education Center participated in a widespread project examining Head Start programs in the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency, Northern Kentucky, Butler County, and Clermont County. The research stressed the notion that teachers need reliable information on classroom performance in order to teach to the best of their ability. The project investigated the process of data collection and analysis by using flexible social science software that will help collect and explain child outcome data. The curriculum planning, implementation, and assessment of Head Start teachers was examined with a focus on the relationships between teaching techniques and child learning outcomes. Researchers evaluated any advantages in learning for children whose teachers receive ongoing and individualized professional feedback by comparing their progress to the progress of children whose teachers receive only general professional development instruction. Data collected during the project was examined for ways in which it might contribute to improvement efforts for the local, state, and national Head Start community.

Specific Aims: An appropriate data management system was identified and utilized to analyze child outcome data in order to provide comprehensible feedback to Head Start teachers and parents. Teachers were evaluated to determine their success in implementing the planned curriculum, and professional development will help these teachers to improve the quality of their teaching with the goal of benefiting the children in their classes. The relationships between child outcome data, data from in-class teacher evaluations, and data portraying the effectiveness of professional development explain and improve a programs capability to offer a high-quality learning environment for Head Start preschoolers.

National Endowment for the Arts Grant 2004-2006

Summary: The Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM) received support from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to create six preschool curriculum units that will demonstrate the museums educational value for children between the ages of three and five. The Arlitt Child and Family Research and Education Center at the University of Cincinnati collaborated with the CAM, as well as the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in order to develop age appropriate curriculum units that integrate childrens literature with pieces of art located in the CAM. Each of Arlitt's nine lead teachers were part of the curriculum development, and the corresponding nine preschool classrooms engaged in each curriculum unit. Children took part in discussions about selected art and literature, participated in activities related to the themes of the artwork and literature, and visited the CAM to view artwork and participate in art projects in the museums Education Center. During each curriculum unit, Arlitt families and caregivers received information about viewing and discussing art with young children. They had the opportunity to attend an orientation and a year-end event at the CAM.

Specific Aims: CAM educators and docents, Arlitt teachers, and preschool caregivers acquired and/or demonstrate the skills that will help to involve children between the ages of three and five in art learning while supporting their social and cognitive development through the utilization of CAM resources. The completed curriculum units provide preschool educators with strategies for combining literacy and language objectives with the acquirement of skills in the visual arts. After the conclusion of the grant period, the developed curriculum materials was used at the CAM during professional development programs for preschool educators, and was distributed to approximately 180 preschools in the Greater Cincinnati area.

ODE Building Quality Grant 2004-2005

Summary: The Arlitt Child and Family Research and Education Center collaborated with the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), and subcontractors from the University of Cincinnati Evaluation Services Center and RISE Learning Solutions, Inc., to develop a uniform framework for the education of children from age three to grade three. Arlitt staff worked with experts from around the country to create a curriculum that is supported by current research and by the philosophical beliefs of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education, and the Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children. In addition to the curriculum, guides for assessment and program evaluation were developed. Throughout the project, the following notions were considered fundamental:

  • All children are born ready to learn, and a good curriculum will serve a diversity of learners.
  • Relationships and communication between the school, the child, and the family are influential during the learning process.
  • A rich classroom environment with a range of well-planned learning opportunities will contribute to each child's ability to learn.

Specific Aims: The current research literature that relates to curriculum, assessment, and program accountability was analyzed with particular attention given to topics identified as important by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). A high-quality curriculum and corresponding measures for progress assessment was developed for children from age three to grade three. A program evaluation method was created to inspire a sense of accountability and to ensure the capacity for continuous improvement. Data was attained to substantiate the appropriateness of the curriculum, assessment, and evaluation tools. A professional development instrument was generated to aid in the implementation of the abovementioned curriculum, assessment measures, and evaluation method.

PNC Grow Up Great Grant 2004-2007

Summary: The Arlitt Child and Family Research and Education Center joined efforts with the Cincinnati Psychoanalytic Institute (CPI) and PNC volunteers to determine how to optimize the effects of Head Start early education programs for children, teachers, and families. Efforts focused on understanding what children require in order to be ready to learn when they enter kindergarten. Children who participated in the project were supported during their transition into the Cincinnati Public Schools through the involvement of their families, the Arlitt preschool staff, the Cincinnati Public Schools kindergarten staff, and CPI psychiatrists. PNC volunteers worked directly with Arlitt staff members to help the Cincinnati Public Schools establish good relationships with the families of Arlitt preschoolers in order to facilitate an effective transition to kindergarten. Arlitt teachers concentrated on assessing each child's approaches to learning skills while CPI mental health providers helped identify and remove potential psychosocial barriers to learning.

Specific Aims: Arlitt staff and CPI psychiatrists collaborated to produce a prototype of child-focused intervention to boost the self-conceptual knowledge and academic engagement of inner-city children living in a complex and uncertain world that is affected by violence, poverty, and family disruption. This model is replicable in other programs. Positive approaches to learning outcomes for inner-city children were recognized and increased through attention to reasoning, problem solving, curriculum content, and child-focused psychological treatment. PNC volunteers provided program support by working effectively with Arlitt and CPI, and training modules were developed to offer support to early childhood educators and therapists in other parts of the state and country.