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Block Building Study - Introduction 


What can children building with blocks tell us about the way they think about the world?  

Funded by NSF award #1561278 Characterizing and improving children's block-building skills: Interdisciplinary studies using approaches from cognitive science and computer science”

Children copying block models can be a window into their cognitive processes.

Spatial cognition refers to a set of skills that we use every day to think about objects moving in the world, the relationship between objects in space, and the way we navigate through the world. Spatial cognition, especially early in development, predicts later spatial and mathematical skills, especially those related to disciplines of science, technology, mathematics, and education (STEM) fields. This project focuses on block building, an accessible and adaptable skill for young children in both formal and informal learning contexts. We use the block-building process as a window to understand how this complex spatial skill develops, how it is linked to academic learning more generally, and how it can be nurtured, moving children from "novice" to "expert" builders.

Kids building with blocks. Block building is common, accessible, and fun.

Our research draws on the skills of a collaborative team of cognitive scientists, education researchers, computer scientists, and electrical engineers working on innovative methods to better capture the complex processes involved in block building. We use traditional cognitive methods along with machine learning techniques such as computer vision and inertial measurement units embedded in the blocks to characterize in detail the process of children’s block building and its development. This innovative approach not only provides a better understanding of early spatial skills but also has the potential to change the conceptual framework through
which we understand block building by establishing novel metrics for performance. We aim to characterize the detailed processes of block
building among children of different ages, levels of experience, and skill levels, broadening the potential implications for education. This project will also work toward generating scalable tools that can be used by scientists and educators to characterize, analyze, and promote development of block-building skills.

Computer interface for working with the block-building data.

We are always looking children of all skill levels and interests to participate in our studies.  Please click the link below if you are interested in more information

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School of Education

Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences

Whiting School of Engineering

Center for Talented Youth

Science of Learning Institute