Where can I find Living Laboratory activities?
Living Laboratory can be found in the Discovery Center next to the Experiment Station and in the Hall of Human Life by the Physical Forces environment. If you’re not sure where to go, ask one of our staff or volunteers; just look for a red coat or apron.
How can I participate in an experiment in Living Laboratory?
All you need to do is ask. Our scientists are always looking for new participants and would love for you to come and ask them about their researcher. If you’re able to participate they will go through a process called “informed consent” and start the experiment.
What is informed consent?
Informed consent just means making sure that you know what your participation will involve and all of your rights as a participant, before having you agree to participate. In other words, making sure you are informed is part of asking for your consent to participate. This process is an important part of conducting ethical experiments and something every scientist does.
Why might I not be able to participate?
There are two reasons why someone might not be able to participate in an experiment, though you can always participate in Living Laboratory. The first reason has to do with informed consent. Only legal adults are able to provide consent. If you are under 18 years old, then your legal guardian has to provide consent for you. Many of our visitors come to the Museum without their legal guardian, so their data cannot be included. The second reason is that some studies are about specific age groups, so data from people outside of the target age range can’t be included either.
What happens if I can’t participate or chose not to participate?
You are always welcome to try out the activities used in the study without having your data collected. Most of the time this experience will be exactly the same – the only difference will be whether or not they record your data. For some of our longer studies, our research partners will show you a shorter demo version so that they can focus on having a discussion with you about their work. The scientists are always happy to just talk to you about their research and to answer any questions you might have, if you are not interested in trying out their activity. You are also welcome to watch other people participate. Watching other people try out the activity can be as informative as doing it yourself. This option is a great time-saver for larger groups.
Who counts as a legal guardian?
A child’s legal guardian is whoever has legal custody of the child. In other words, there is a legal document, such as a birth certificate or certificate of adoption, specifying legal custody. The legal guardians are typically, but not always, the child’s parents. You are not expected to have proof, but the researchers will ask you to confirm that you are the child’s legal guardian before going through the informed consent process with you.
How long does it take to participate?
Our research partners know that there is a lot to do at the Museum and that most of our visitors have a busy day planned, so activities are designed to take no more than 15 minutes. Of course, if you or someone in your group is particularly interested in talking to a scientist the entire experience can end up taking longer. If you are in a rush, please make sure to let the researchers know and they will help you keep track of the time.
When can I find researchers in Living Laboratory?
There are signs in each space that will let you know what you can expect to find in the Living Laboratory for the day. When researchers are available, they will generally be present in the Discovery Center from 10 AM to 1 PM or 1 PM to 4 PM or from 10:30 AM to 1:30 PM or 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM in the Hall of Human Life. However, Living Laboratory is a growing program and we are currently looking for new scientists to join us, so researchers are not always available. When no researcher is available, the sign may instead list a time when you can find a Museum-educator conducting an activity based on a completed research study. The availability of activities is contingent upon researcher and/or staff availability.
I’m a teacher coming with my class. Is there a way for my students to participate in the research?
Participation in Living Laboratory can be a great way to add a new dimension to your science class and further your students’ understanding of the scientific process. Some researchers are able to send home advanced copies of their informed consent documents for parents to sign before their child visits. Coordinating sending these forms home and ensuring that they arrive at the Museum with the minor requires a bit of extra work on the part of the teacher, so we only send out these forms upon teacher request. If you are interested, please email email@example.com to find out if this is an option for the day you are visiting. If it is, we will be happy to help you coordinate.
I’m a researcher that is interested in joining Living Laboratory. What do I need to do?
We are currently enrolling researcher partners in both spaces and would be happy to talk with you. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.