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SMU Simmons School team to analyze 'Learning Through Play'
Jun 28, 2023
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Dallas, Texas (SMU)  ̶  SMU’s Center on Research and Evaluation (CORE) in the Simmons School of Education and Human Development will join Temple University and seven other universities in a “Learning through Play” national study. The LEGO Foundation has awarded a $19.98 million grant to fund the longitudinal study. SMU’s Center on Research and Evaluation (CORE) at Simmons will be the Dallas site lead for the national study and will receive $2.8 million over 5 years to conduct the work locally. 

The study will prioritize under-resourced schools around the country. 

CORE Executive Director Annie Wright will serve as principal investigator, with CORE Assistant Director Dylan Farmer and Dr. Toni Harrison-Kelly, Executive Director at the SMU Budd Center, serving as Co-PIs. The study will follow students from Pre-K through 4th grade, allowing researchers to study how creating active, engaged, socially interactive classrooms can bring about deeper learning and joyful teaching. 

A pilot study is scheduled for the 2023-2024 academic year with the full study beginning in the 2024-2025 school year. According to Wright, SMU CORE will coordinate all research activities for the project and will consult with the national team on school partnerships, parent engagement and community engagement. 

“We are honored to be selected to be part of this important work,” Wright said. “We believe it will strengthen our research-practice partnerships with local school districts.”  The study will hire a local research coordinator as well as coaches to work with the national Active Playful Learning team. 

“SMU CORE’s involvement in this study speaks to the caliber of work being done by Annie Wright and her staff,” said Stephanie Knight,  Leon Simmons Endowed Dean of the Simmons School. “Their reputation in education research and evaluation is well-earned. I know they will add valuable data to this equation that could ultimately lead to a way to re-imagine education in and out of the classroom.”

The study will convene top scientists in the United States to develop infrastructure that will support long-term sustainability in the participating school districts. The project will be led by Temple University Professor Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a New York Times bestselling author on early childhood education. The University of New Hampshire, the University of Delaware, Vanderbilt University, the University of Virginia, UT Dallas, the University of Chicago and the University of California-Irvine will join SMU and Temple in conducting the study.