CREATE Conference Highlights Student Research, Art

Displays of research and creativity dominated the Eastern Connecticut State University campus on April 12 for the annual CREATE conference. CREATE stands for “Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern,” and is the university’s premier undergraduate conference.

The day-long showcase featured more than 250 students from all majors who led oral and poster presentations, panel discussions, music and dance performances, art and photography exhibitions, new-media demonstrations and more.

Research questions probed the effects of “fake news” on the economy, the influence of climate change on Northeastern coastlines, the use of virtual reality gaming compared to traditional exercise, and much more. Artistic attractions included a dance “inform-ance” in homage to African migration, operatic duets, a gallery of student artwork and more.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez says CREATE is one of her favorite days of the academic year. “Some of these projects represent three of four years of work,” she said. “Being able to recognize their work is not only a source of pride, but a validation of Eastern’s mission.”

Dance performance "Diasporic Distillations" presented by Jackie Verian, Tayla Bogle, Gabbie Robertson, Ishah Azeez and Erika Moore.
Matt Bessette presents "Decedus," part one of "The Duritia Trilogy," a series of original plays.
Patrice Eugene presents "Literacy Warriors: Identifying Inequalities and Maximizing Literacies Comprehension in a Mixed-Income Community" during the CREATE poster session.
Martha Ennis presents "Mexican Migration in Connecticut: Braceros and Beyond" to a packed meeting room in the Student Center.
Patrons peruse the CREATE art gallery in the Wood Support Center.

 

“CREATE really shows the breadth and depth of what’s happening on this campus in terms of research and artistic endeavors,” added Environmental Earth Science Professor Bryan Oakley, conference co-chair. “This is the culmination of many hours in and outside of the classroom.”

Midway through the day, CREATE participants gathered for an award ceremony in the Student Center. Two outstanding undergraduate researchers and two faculty mentors were awarded. Research awards went to biology major Lauren Atkinson and psychology major Kelly Bielonko.

Atkinson’s research on antimicrobial resistance has landed her several grants and numerous presentation opportunities. “I’m very appreciative to how much Eastern provides and supports our research,” said Atkinson, who praised her mentor Barbara Murdoch and the Biology Department. “This certainly wouldn’t have been possible without you.”

Bielonko’s research has spanned organizational psychology and underserved native communities, landing her grants and summer fellowships. “Eastern is an incredible place,” she said. “The experiences I’ve had, the great group of professors here.”

Angel Bleggi presents "Music Video as Performance Art."
Andrew Hoffman presents "Arduino Motor Manipulation."
Kayla Santos presents "Mood Alterations as a Result of Participation in 'Beat Saber' Virtual Reality Game."
Christiana Montalbano and Christian Fronckowiak present scenes from the operetta "The Mikado."

 

CREATE is as much a celebration of faculty mentorship as it is undergraduate success. Provost William Salka presented two awards to outstanding faculty mentors. “The many nominations we received detail how faculty have gone above and beyond expectations,” he said, “not only helping with research, but teaching students the skills they’ll need for their careers.”

Awards went to Biology Professor Amy Groth, nominated by her student Jonathan Rappi, and History Professor Scott Moore, nominated by his student Cassaundra Epes.

Groth’s mentorship of Rappi refined his honors thesis on cancer-gene interaction and contributed to his acceptance to present at the World Congress on Undergraduate Research (WCUR) this summer in Germany. Moore’s mentorship of Epes was a big reason her research — “The Ideal Woman: Sexology, Sex Reform and Engineering Marriage in Weimar Germany” — was accepted for publication and gained entry to the American Historical Association Annual Meeting this past January.

“There’s nothing like seeing your students grow intellectually, exploring a topic, solving a problem or following a creative muse,” said Núñez of mentoring students.

The CREATE conference reinforces high-impact practices such as mentored research and creative projects; increases the percentage of students who present their work, developing their communication and presentation skills; and contributes to the intellectual richness of the campus community.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Mohegan Tribal Chief Named Eastern’s Commencement Speaker

 Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, chief of the Mohegan Tribe, will be the Commencement Speaker at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 129th Commencement Exercises on May 21 at the XL Center in Hartford. Malerba will also receive an honorary doctorate degree at the ceremonies.

Malerba has achieved an exemplary career in the health care and tribal governance fields. Not only has she served her community with distinction, she has brought national recognition to the State of Connecticut.

Chief Mutáwi Mutáhash (Many Hearts) Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba became the 18th Chief of the Mohegan Tribe on August 15, 2010, and is the first female chief in the tribe’s modern history. The position is a lifetime appointment made by the tribe’s council of elders. She previously served as chairwoman of the tribal council and was also executive director of health and human services for the tribal government.

Prior to her work for the Mohegan Tribe, Chief Malerba had a distinguished career as a registered nurse and served as director of cardiology and pulmonary services at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital. She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at Yale University and was named a Jonas Scholar. She holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Connecticut, and has an honorary doctorate from the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford.

Chief Malerba has achieved a national reputation as an advocate and supporter of health issues and the welfare of Native Peoples. She is chairwoman of the Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee of the Federal Indian Health Services; is a member of the U.S. Justice Department’s Tribal Nations Leadership Council; serves on the Tribal Advisory Committee for the National Institute of Health; is a member of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Tribal Advisory Committee; and serves as a technical expert on the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. She also serves as the United South and Eastern Tribes board of directors secretary, and is a member of the board of directors for the Ms. Foundation for Women.

In Connecticut, Chief Malerba serves as a trustee for Chelsea Groton Bank, as a board member for the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, as an advisory committee member for the Harvard University Native American Program and served on the board of directors for Lawrence Memorial Hospital for 11 years.

More than 1,200 undergraduate and graduate students will receive their diplomas at Eastern’s graduation exercises on May 21, with an audience of more than 10,000 family and friends expected. In addition to Malerba, dignitaries expected to attend include Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System; and Merle Harris, vice-chair of the Board of Regents for Higher Education.

Written by Ed Osborn

Paul Canavan Presents at Sports Medicine Symposium

Paul Canavan, professor of health sciences at Eastern Connecticut State University, presented at the 31st Sports Medicine Symposium in Wisconsin on March 14. Canavan gave three presentations and was also a guest speaker at the symposium.

 Canavan’s first presentation was titled “Preventing Groin Injuries,” and used evidence from research literature as well as Canavan’s own real-life experience with the Northeastern University ice hockey team. He spoke on the importance of providing specific screening and interventions to prevent such injuries in sports.

His second presentation was called “Efficient and Effective Functional Examination and Exercise Prescription for the Lower Extremity” and was directed towards physicians and physical therapists to advocate the use of tests that screen for strength, flexibility and control, as well as provide specific therapeutic exercises.

The final presentation, “Knee Varus and Knee Valgus: Considerations for Therapeutic Exercise Intervention,” examined Canavan’s prior research related to the stresses upon the knee for individuals with knee valgus (knock-kneed) and knee varus (bow-legged). This presentation helped attendees understand various exercises that may help these individuals and potentially slow the progression of knee osteoarthritis.

The Sports Medicine Symposium was primarily attended by physicians and physical therapists throughout Wisconsin and beyond. Nearly 250 attendees included primary care physicians, emergency medicine physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers, nurses, coaches, athletic directors and others who were interested and involved in the care of athletes of all ages and abilities.

Written by Raven Dillon

Halladay, Canavan, Torcellini Present a Range of Research

Halladay Discusses Gender Stereotypes on Confidence

By Dwight Bachman

Brianna Halladay, assistant professor of economics, addressed the topic “Perception Matters: The Role of Task Gender Stereotype on Confidence and Tournament Selection” at the Faculty Scholars Forum on March 20.

Halladay said extensive research suggests that women avoid competition even when they can be benefit from potential rewards. Researchers conclude that women differ in their preference for competition compared to men.

Halladay’s own research explores the potential that another channel may be yielding the observed gender gap in tournament selection: a gender difference in beliefs about future performance reflecting gender stereotypes.

Using a laboratory experiment, she analyzed differences in tournament entry, using a male-stereotype task and a female-stereotype task. Her findings suggest that the observed difference in behavioral responses to competition among men and women is not due to a difference in preference for competition, but rather a difference in beliefs about future performance task (an environment where women would carry lower beliefs about future performance), and that more women than men enter the tournament under the female-stereotype task.

“In other words, it appears an increase in female confidence and decrease in male confidence is driving this result,” said Halladay. “This suggests the effect of competitiveness on gender is not exclusively about a difference in preference for competition, but consistent with a difference in beliefs about future performance.”

Canavan Presents at Sports Medicine Symposium

By Raven Dillon

Paul Canavan, professor of health sciences at Eastern Connecticut State University, presented at the 31st Sports Medicine Symposium in Wisconsin on March 14. Canavan gave three presentations and was also a guest speaker at the symposium.

Canavan’s first presentation was titled “Preventing Groin Injuries,” and used evidence from research literature as well as Canavan’s own real-life experience with the Northeastern University ice hockey team. He spoke on the importance of providing specific screening and interventions to prevent such injuries in sports.

His second presentation was called “Efficient and Effective Functional Examination and Exercise Prescription for the Lower Extremity” and was directed towards physicians and physical therapists to advocate the use of tests that screen for strength, flexibility and control, as well as provide specific therapeutic exercises.

The final presentation, “Knee Varus and Knee Valgus: Considerations for Therapeutic Exercise Intervention,” examined Canavan’s prior research related to the stresses upon the knee for individuals with knee valgus (knock-kneed) and knee varus (bow-legged). This presentation helped attendees understand various exercises that may help these individuals and potentially slow the progression of knee osteoarthritis.

The Sports Medicine Symposium was primarily attended by physicians and physical therapists throughout Wisconsin and beyond. Nearly 250 attendees included primary care physicians, emergency medicine physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers, nurses, coaches, athletic directors and others who were interested and involved in the care of athletes of all ages and abilities.

Torcellini: ‘Buildings Mortgage the Energy Futures of the World’

By Dwight Bachman

Paul Torcellini, endowed chair of sustainable energy studies and professor of environmental earth science, kicked off the Spring Faculty Scholars Forum on Feb. 13 with a fascinating presentation on “Living at Zero: Experiences in Moving Towards an All Renewable Energy Lifestyle.”

Torcellini, who has been researching energy efficiency since he was in high school, said buildings that use electricity and natural gas to stay warm, cool and lighted are the largest consumer of energy in America. Unfortunately, the growth of new facilities is taking place more quickly than measures to impact energy efficiency. “Buildings mortgage the energy futures of the world,” said Torcellini.

He used the construction of his own family home to encourage others to strive to live at what he called “net zero or zero net.” For sure, it is net positive. He described the process as “building on a diet.” Together, he and his family decided to evaluate and examine the cost and value of how they would light, heat the space, use hot water, appliances and electronics in their new home.

The family started building the home in 2014 and finished in 2016. Through a series of measures including a great deal of insulation, heat pumps, energy efficient windows and efficient LED lighting, the house uses so little energy that solar photovoltaic panels generate enough electricity to cover all the loads. The solar panels also produce enough electricity to partially power a new electric vehicle.

In addition, the construction of the house minimized the introduction of chemicals that outgas during the life of the house. Mineral-based paints, linoleum with cork backing and tongue oil on native wood floors were used.

Another sustainability measure is the Torcellini family’s commitment to raising much of their own food, including organically fed meat from turkeys, chickens, sheep and pigs, as well as producing eggs.

New Research Lends Insight into Workplace Homicides

Mitchell Doucette is an assistant professor of health sciences at Eastern Connecticut State University as well as an affiliated research scientist with the Injury Prevention Center at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

Mitchell Doucette, assistant professor of health sciences at Eastern Connecticut State University, recently published a paper about the changing trends of workplace homicides in the research journal “Injury Epidemiology.” Doucette’s paper is titled “Workplace homicides committed by firearm: recent trends and narrative text analysis” and was published on March 18.

The paper analyzes workplace homicides committed by firearm, focusing on trends from 2011-15, as well as possible motivations and circumstances. The paper addresses research gaps in homicide literature by creating a comprehensive analysis of why workplace homicides are committed.

Doucette’s research discovered that while overall workplace homicides have decreased, the motivations behind the fatalities have changed. In previous years, intentional workplace deaths were largely caused by robberies. Sixty-five percent of workplace deaths in the late 1990s and early 2000s were from robberies.

Now workplace homicides are most often due to events such as an interpersonal argument including work-performance criticism, intimate personal violence and mass shootings. Because of this shift in motivations, Doucette contends that there must be a shift in policy.

“Robbery-related prevention recommendations were fitting several decades ago, when workplace homicides were most often a result of a robbery,” Doucette continued. “As the circumstances of these crimes have shifted towards non-robbery events in recent years, so too must prevention techniques.”

Access to firearms significantly increases the potential of lethality during an argument, and Doucette reasons that restricting workplace access to firearms may be a possible measure to reduce the number of workplace homicides.

“We suspect that the change in workplace-homicide circumstance, moving from robbery to non-robbery motivated crimes, may be in part due to an increase in firearm exposure,” he concluded. “Workers are now more likely than ever to interact with a customer or co-worker carrying a firearm.”

In addition to being a professor at Eastern, Doucette is an affiliated research scientist with the Injury Prevention Center at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. He was lead author for this paper and worked alongside Maria T. Bulzacchelli, Shannon Frattaroli and Cassandra K. Crifasi.

“Injury Epidemiology” is dedicated to advancing the scientific foundation for injury prevention and control through publication and dissemination of peer-reviewed research. The publication’s goal is to be the premier venue for communicating epidemiologic studies of unintentional and intentional injuries. The journal has a special focus on studies generating practical knowledge that can be translated into interventions to reduce injury morbidity and mortality on a population level.

Written by Raven Dillon

Eastern Represents at ‘Women in Psychology’ National Conference

Antuanett Ortiz, Professor Jennifer Leszczynski, Joanna Casuccio and Alyssa Sokaitis present at Association for Women in Psychology.

Three psychology students and two professors from Eastern Connecticut State University presented two research posters at the Association for Women in Psychology (AWP) national conference from Feb. 28-March 3 in Newport, RI. Students Alyssa Sokaitis ’19, Antuanett Ortiz ’19 and Joanna Casuccio ’19 presented alongside Psychology Professors Jennifer Leszczynski and Alita Cousins.

“Generational differences in feminist self-identification & liberal feminist beliefs” was presented by Leszczynski, Cousins and Casuccio.The research analyzes how feminist identification, descriptions and attitudes changed between 2011 and 2018. The researchers found that participants were more likely to self-identify as feminists and describe feminists as liberal in 2018; whereas in 2011, participants described feminists as radical. Additionally, participants reported higher beliefs in liberal feminism in 2018 as compared to 2011.

“Feminist identity and liberal feminist attitudes and beliefs” was presented by Leszczynski, Sokaitis and Oritz. The research analyzes how self-identified feminists differed from those who did not self-identify as feminists. The study found that those who self-identify as feminists were more likely to endorse liberal feminist attitudes and describe feminists as liberal rather than radical.

The AWP convened during the 1969 meeting of the American Psychological Association (APA) because the APA was not responding to issues raised by the new women’s liberation movement. Today, they remain one of the leading feminist voices in the field of psychology, working closely with the APA and other organizations.

Written by Raven Dillon

Eastern Professor Authors Book on Maroon Communities in Brazil

Mary Lorena Kenny

Mary Lorena Kenny, professor of anthropology at Eastern Connecticut State University, recently authored “Deeply Rooted in the Present: Heritage, Memory, and Identity in Brazilian Quilombos.” Kenny held a book talk on Jan. 31 to celebrate and discuss her research.

There are an estimated 4-6,000 quilombo communities, also known as “maroon communities,” in Brazil. Their inhabitants – quilombolas – are federally recognized descendants of self-ascribed, traditional Black settlements. They are descendants of enslaved persons who escaped to freedom and established settlements in remote mountain locations or dense tropical terrains.

Brazil imported more than five million slaves over the course of 300 years – the highest number in the Americas. Kenny said the legacies of slavery and colonialism are manifested in inequities that contemporary quilombolas face in terms of access to healthcare, schooling and basic infrastructure. Three quarters of quilombola families live in extreme poverty and receive public assistance.

A legal decree in Brazil’s 1988 Constitution guarantees quilombolas collective land titles as a type of reparation, but there is strong opposition to this policy. Opponents argue that slavery ended long ago, making the issue irrelevant, while others assert that the land grants are exclusionary, or that slavery never existed in the area. Throughout “Deeply Rooted in the Present,” Kenny describes how such policies are tied to social, economic, political and racial realities of Brazil.

Kenny has lived on-and-off in Brazil for 30 years. There are two federally recognized quilombos in the Northeastern area of the country that she frequents. At the book talk, she went over the “bureaucratic hurdles” that come with petitioning for federal recognition and gaining land rights, from the informality of certain settlements to a lack of material artefacts to bolster their claims.

In her research, Kenny links past practices and policies to contemporary conditions of exploitative, slave-like labor practices and a concentration of land ownership, noting that more than 50 land activists were murdered in Brazil in 2017. While not every black and dark-skinned person is a quilombola, Afro-Brazilians face the brunt of inequality. “More than half the population are Black and Brown people,” said Kenny. She called attention to the high homicide rates disproportionately affecting black youth, along with the corrupt government systems that protect established social roles. “Until recently, if you were white and had money, you were above the law.” With no trust for law enforcement, justice is often taken into citizen hands, and violence is prevalent.

In addition to skepticism toward authority, Kenny emphasized the distrust of outsiders that is common in close-knit, small communities. “You have to be willing to go through a vetting process,” she explained. Quilombolas kept an eye on her and wanted to know her motives for visiting. Any project – whether it is research, filming, development or church based – must confront the deep-seated attitude and fear of exploitation. “I took my camera out for the first time only after a year.”

“One of the ways to learn about the community is through oral history,” said Kenny as she spoke about immersing herself in the local community and gaining insight on the history of the quilombola movement and attitudes towards the quilombolas. One white merchant she interviewed disputed quilombolas claims about a history of discrimination in the town, and felt that assertions about racial tensions were new to the area and generated by ‘outsiders.’ “He said this as we were standing just a few feet away from what was once the Whites-only club, and the Black-only club,” Kenny stated.

During the book talk, she explored the importance of pottery as a signature aspect of quilombola heritage and identity, particularly for women. Ceramic production is non-mechanized and produces little income. She described the sweltering heat generated by the outdoor kiln fed by wood gathered in the area. “It is an extremely arduous and time-consuming process.”

It is questionable whether pottery production is a sustainable profession in the 21st century, and most younger women hope to find work outside the community. “They want to do things that are seen as giving more status.” At the same time, some are dubbed “uppity” or ‘out of place’ if they seek education or career advancement.

Kenny shared a story of a woman named Céu, who rose to a leadership position as head of the women’s pottery cooperative. Despite Céu’s limiting circumstances, she launched an inspiring career. In 2013, however, her life was cut short when an ex-partner doused her in kerosene and set her on fire. “She survived for three days and then perished.”

Kenny explained to her audience that in order to become federally recognized, quilombolas must collectively agree on legally embracing this identity. “You have to decide as a community that you are going to share this land.”

Kenny’s writing illustrates how heritage and identity are continually being constructed to reflect particular historical circumstances. “Deeply Rooted in the Present” includes supplementary exercises that encourage readers to make connections between the case study at hand, their own heritage and heritage-making efforts in other parts of the world.

Written by Jordan Corey

Psychology Student-Professor Duo Co-Authors Research Paper

Kaylee DeFelice presents an earlier version of the research at a conference at the University of Massachusetts.

Eastern Connecticut State University alumna Kaylee DeFelice ’19 recently co-authored a paper with Psychology Professor James Diller titled “Intersectional Feminism and Behavior Analysis.” The paper will appear in an upcoming issue of “Behavior Analysis in Practice,” a prestigious transnational journal.

The paper analyzes human behavior in the context of intersectional feminism, which is a feminist movement that encompasses the different experiences between race, gender and sexuality. DeFelice and Diller examine the field of psychology and behavior analysis through this feminist lens, noting that intersectionality is imperative to understand the human experience. By adopting intersectional practices, they argue, the field of behavior analysis would be significantly advanced.

“It’s incredibly rare for undergraduate students to publish in scholarly journals, especially as first authors,” says Diller. “I’m very proud to have published this paper with her.”

DeFelice, who has aspirations of becoming a school psychologist, originally began this paper for an assignment in Diller’s class. Together, they expanded the topic into independent research, resulting in numerous drafts, rewrites and eventual publication. DeFelice even presented a previous version of the paper at the Berkshire Association for Behavior Analysis and Therapy (BABAT) conference in October 2018.

“This experience was extremely valuable to me,” says DeFelice. “I found the study of this topic especially relevant in light of the Me Too and Time’s Up movements, and believe that this paper, as well as others, can help push further social advancements.”

Written by Raven Dillon

Eastern Represents at American Historical Association Annual Meeting

Cassaundra Epes ’19 and Dana Meyer ’19

Two students and three professors from Eastern Connecticut State University attended and presented research at the American Historical Association (AHA) annual meeting in Chicago, IL, from Jan. 3–6.

Dana Meyer ’19 of Manchester and Cassaundra Epes ’19 of Baltic were two of 28 students meeting-wide selected for the poster presentation portion of the meeting, which occurred on Jan. 5. Meyer presented “Connecticut Revolutionary War Deserters: An Experiment in Digital History.” Epes presented “A Willing Audience: The Brown Book and the Enduring Power of Conspiracy Theory.”

Students with Professor Balcerski.

History Professors Thomas Balcerski, Anna Kirchmann and Joan Meznar presented papers and spoke on panels at the meeting. Kirchmann chaired a panel titled “Conflicted Loyalties and/or Pragmatism,” and presented her paper “Urban Renewal and the Response of American Ethnic Groups, 1949–74.”

Balcerski organized and participated in a panel titled “Writing Early Queer Lives: Authorial and Biographical Imperatives before 1900.” Meznar attended several panels on teaching the “World History Survey” and one on careers for history PhDs outside of academia.

“The annual meeting for the American Historical Association is the oldest and largest society of historians in the United States,” said Meznar. Speaking to Eastern’s students, she added, “It is quite an honor that two of our students were among the 28 students meeting-wide to be selected for the poster session. With the support of outstanding faculty mentors, our majors are engaged in high-caliber research that is showcased in top-tier professional conferences.”

The American Historical Association is a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1884 and incorporated by Congress in 1889 for the promotion of historical studies. The AHA provides leadership for the discipline, protects academic freedom, develops professional standards, aids in the pursuit and publication of scholarship, generates innovative teaching, and supplies various services to sustain and enhance the work of its members. As the largest organization of professional historians in the world, the AHA represents more than 12,000 members and serves historians representing every historical period and geographical area.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Announces Results of 2018 TIMPANI Toy Study

The stackable, magnetic, bottle-shaped “Magz Clix” scored highest for engaging children in mindful play and was named Eastern’s 2018 TIMPANI Toy of the Year.

Written by Ed Osborn

On Dec. 4, Eastern Connecticut State University’s Center for Early Childhood Education announced that “Magz Clix” (previously known as “Bottle Clix”) by Magz® has been named the 2018 TIMPANI toy. TIMPANI stands for “Toys that Inspire Mindful Play and Nurture Imagination.”

Now in its ninth year, the annual toy study investigates how young children learn as they play with a variety of toys in natural settings. The toys were placed in preschool classrooms at the University’s Child and Family Development Resource Center, and student researchers used hidden cameras to videotape children playing with the toys. Faculty and undergraduate student researchers then coded the footage according to the study’s evaluation rubric, which includes four subscales: thinking and learning, cooperation and social interaction, creativity and imagination, and verbalization.

“The opportunities that Eastern undergraduates have to conduct faculty-mentored research are a strength of our liberal arts education,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “The TIMPANI toy study is a wonderful example of the sophisticated nature of student research on our campus. For the past nine years, students from the early childhood education, psychology and other departments have observed children at play with a variety of toys. In the process, they have developed a criteria-based assessment of what toys are best for the cognitive, social and creative development of young children. Parents, preschool educators and others around the world are turning to Eastern for direction on how best to support children’s play. At the same time, our students are conducting empirical research of the highest quality.”

The 2018 TIMPANI researchers included (left to right) students Allison Lundy ’19 and Morgan Winship ’18, Professor Emeritus Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, CECE Director Julia DeLapp and student Dominique McLean ’18. A fourth student was involved as well: Nicole Green ’18.

For this year’s study, researchers also investigated how teachers introduce new play materials into their classrooms and the effects of those introductions on children’s play quality. To study that aspect effectively, it was important to select toys that had similar characteristics, so the researchers selected eight construction toys to study.

Magz Clix received the highest overall score in this year’s study and was the highest-scoring toy in the social interaction subscale. The toy includes colorful, magnetic, bottle-shaped pieces that can be connected side-to-side or stacked. Children were often seen stacking the pieces in very tall towers. According to Morgan Winship, a psychology and early childhood education student involved in the study, “That was a huge problem that they had to solve together. How were they going to get high enough to stack the pieces when the towers were taller than them? They needed to interact and help each other.”

Children were also observed using the Magz Clix to create microphones, rocket ships, and guitars with their peers. “It provided them the opportunity to express themselves open-endedly through object transformations and play narratives,” said Allison Lundy, another psychology and early childhood education student involved in the study. “I wasn’t expecting this toy to score the highest, because it didn’t really seem like there was much to do with them. But watching the videos, I was surprised to see the different ways that children utilized them.”

According to Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, principal investigator of the study and retired Phyllis Waite Endowed Chair of Early Childhood Education, toys that appear simple to adults often inspire some of the highest quality play. “We’ve found over the years that toys that are quite basic and can be used in multiple ways do very, very well.” He also noted that like many construction toys, the Magz Clix consist of many small parts, which leads to more social interaction and problem-solving. “Children need to coordinate their activities with peers as they’re building with them.”

Notably, Magz Clix also held children’s attention over time. “With many toys, we see high-quality play the first day that it’s in the classroom, but then the play quality wanes over time,” said Julia DeLapp, director of the Center for Early Childhood Education and co-investigator of the study. “But with Magz Clix, we actually saw an improvement in the play quality the second week that it was in the classroom.” Magz Clix was also the highest-scoring toy for Hispanic children and for children from families with high levels of financial need.

Study co-investigator Julia DeLapp gave the opening remarks at the 2018 press conference.

The TIMPANI toy study provides undergraduate students at Eastern a unique opportunity to engage in primary research – an opportunity that ensures they are well prepared for graduate school and the workforce because of the professional experience that research projects provide. In addition to Winship and Lundy, two additional undergraduate students were involved in this year’s study: Dominique McLean, a psychology and early childhood education student, and Nicole Green, an English and elementary education student. April Doolan, a communication student, was the student editor for this year’s video.

The results of the study were first announced at the annual meeting of the National Association for the Education of Young Children in Washington, DC, on Nov. 14. Findings will be disseminated to preschool teachers nationally to inform their decisions about the toys to include in their classroom. Findings will also be shared with families. The investigation on how teachers introduce play materials will continue for another year; results are expected in late 2019.

For more information on TIMPANI as well as the 2018 video, visit http://www.easternct.edu/cece/timpani/. Contact the Center for Early Childhood Education at (860) 465-0687.

Previous TIMPANI toys include Animal Kingdom Mega Pack by Animal Planet (2017); Plus-Plus® by Plus-Plus® (2016), Wooden Cash Register by Hape (2015); Paint and Easel (easel by Community Playthings), and Hot Wheels Cars by Mattel (2014); Magna-Tiles by Valtech!, and My First Railway by Brio (2013); Duplo Blocks by LEGO (2012); Tinker Toys by Hasbro (2011); and Wooden Vehicles and Signs by Melissa and Doug (2010).

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Disclaimer: The TIMPANI toy study does not consider, nor does it test, the safety of toys. The study makes no claims about the safety of any toy studied. Neither the Center for Early Childhood Education nor Eastern Connecticut State University is liable for any mishaps related to the use of toys mentioned in study findings. Concerns about any toy listed in the study findings should be directed to the Consumer Products Safety Commission.