The grant will fund special activity boxes for children

Ohio Dominican University (ODU) has received a $9,900 grant award from the Siemer Family Foundation to support the expansion of an initiative that involves the development of educational materials promoting the field of psychology to middle school and early high school-aged students.

Funds provided by this grant will allow the university to further advance the development and deployment of Psychological Detective Activity Boxes, designed by ODU Professor of Psychology John Marazita, Ph.D. with support from a grant from the Association for Psychological Science (APS). The activity box project was created to provide children with exposure to psychological science as a critical step for their personal and academic development, and for growing a behavioral health workforce as a way to attract future generations to the field.

According to Marazita, relative to other STEM fields, few opportunities exist for children to explore psychology, allowing misconceptions about human behavior to persist and psychological critical thinking to go unexercised. Marazita began developing these boxes with the assistance of students after realizing numerous popular subscription-based science boxes that provide children with home-based experiments and activities do not contain psychology-related materials. In March 2023, the first series of 90 boxes was piloted in middle-school classes. Each box included activities and mini experiments for children to explore positive psychology, stress and well-being. The APS highlighted the initiative in an article published in August 2023.

With the support of the Siemer Family Foundation, the second phase of the project will permit a redesign of the first box and the creation of additional boxes that address new topics such as perception, memory and thinking, and wider distribution across Central Ohio. Each box will contain a wide range of materials for conducting demonstrations and mini experiments, as well as a research journal in which students can record data, other observations and exercise their scientific thinking.

“We are extremely grateful for the support of the Siemer Family Foundation to help advance this project,” Marazita said. “I believe our mission aligns well with the foundation’s focus on educational opportunities for school-age children. The Psychological Detective Activity Box offers a unique way to promote personal develop, literacy, critical thinking and interaction with others through the hands-on activities included in each box. We hope to honor the Siemer Family Foundation’s strong history of promoting the well-being of children in our community.”

According to Marazita, the long-term goal of these boxes is to promote psychological science as a career path for children who will serve as researchers and clinicians in the future and have the ability to positively impact their communities. Currently, he plans to distribute the boxes through afterschool, summer, and community programs around the Central Ohio region.