Fish, dog, guitar, starfish, elephant, cake, pencil.
Remember those words, because children who lined up to play the memory game at the University of Colorado and Colorado Springs’ new Cognitive Development Lab exhibit could.
Cards featuring images and words were laid out in a checkerboard sequence at the new exhibit’s table; children were eagerly flipping the cards over and matching them up after getting 30 seconds to memorize their order.
It was just one of more than 80 exhibits at UCCS’ 10th annual Cool Science Carnival Day, but it’s sure to be remembered by the event’s 6,000 attendees after Saturday morning. The carnival kicked off the nine-day annual Cool Science Festival aimed at introducing kids to science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.
Saturday was the Cognitive Development Lab’s debut at the fair as a new institution. The researchers at the lab are seeking more than 100 participants in a yearlong data gathering project, said Diana Selmeczy, who heads the lab as an assistant professor for the UCCS psychology department.
“Understanding how children learn and remember information is really important in the educational realm,” Selmeczy said. The lab’s data will help teachers develop better learning practices.
“We know that there’s a lot of change that occurs (in children), especially in how children self-reflect and think about their memories and what they do with that information during childhood … ” she said. “A lot of our work is understanding the basic mechanisms of how memory functions.”
Long thought of as an art form in ancient Greece, the use of memory has changed drastically since the dawn of modern technology. Explicit memory, like the kind used to memorize the sentence at the beginning of this article, is outsourced to computers. No longer does one need to remember the history of their ancestors when they can Google it.
But Selmeczy’s not worried. Memory will always be needed, she said. It’s just changing.
“We still have to remember lots of information,” she said. “Especially kids. As they’re learning about the world … they’re actually learning about how the world works. So they’re going to be using their memories for all different types of learning.”
The children who lined up at the Lab’s table Saturday were practicing “dual coding theory,” which says people can remember more when there’s multiple avenues to remember it.
“We do look at things like how children decide to ask for help when they’re learning,” Selmeczy said. “So these resources are available to them, but they still have to think about whether they know the information they’re learning well enough or whether they have to seek out help. Are they able to recognize when they need more information?”