About the REACH Lab
The arts can neither guarantee equality nor can they undo its root causes. However, they have the potential to counter some of the toxic effects of these adverse conditions (e.g., poverty, racism) on young children and their families.
For that potential to be fully realized, children and families facing risk must have access to high-quality arts and cultural events and experiences which recognize how their heritage, resilience, and talents contribute to their development, the wellbeing of their communities, and the flourishing of the wider world.
To enhance and expand opportunities for this level of access, the Research on Equity via the Arts in Childhood (REACH) Lab’s multidisciplinary team of investigators aims to develop a rigorous evidence base that showcases the varied ways in which specific arts experiences directly benefit children’s and families’ development. In this work, we collaborate with cross-disciplinary researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and, most importantly, the families and youth in our partner organizations.
Currently, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, REACH researchers are diving deeply into the ways in which music might play a significant role in the lives of young children and their families. More specifically, we are conducting studies that examine the role that active musical participation may play in:
- Strengthening family bonds, increasing mutual regulation, and nurturing early communicative development in toddlers and their caregivers;
- Improving young children’s capacity for self-regulation in pre-school settings; and,
- Developing the neurophysiological functions that may underlie self-regulation.
Across all of our studies, we aim to understand how offering high-quality musical experiences in home visits, public preschools, or as an integral part of early grade school can contribute to positive outcomes for young children and their families.
The REACH Lab’s work lays the foundation for examining the impact of many forms of arts activities on children’s and families’ development.
Research and Projects Timeline
Since the REACH Lab’s founding, the REACH team has shared and promoted its work through the following opportunities and publications:
On March 23, Arts for Learning Maryland (formerly Young Audiences of Maryland) announced that it was awarded a nearly $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to demonstrate arts-integrated school programs that improve academic performance and emotional well-being of students in low-wealth schools. REACH Investigators are co-leading all aspects of the evaluation, including recruitment, assignment, data collection, analysis, reporting, and dissemination to research audiences. Learn more on WolfBrown’s website.
On April 22, REACH grad student Suzanne Varnell presented her thesis titled, "Visual arts activities relate to cortisol and observed interest for preschool children". Suzanne graduated from the WCU Psych MS program in May and moved onto the Psychological Sciences PhD Program at Purdue University in August to continue her studies.
On April 29, REACH team members participated in WCU's Research and Creative Activities Day and presented the following:
- Brown, E.D., Varnell, S., Holochwost, S.J., Wolf, D.P., Garnett, M.L., Velazquez-Martin, B., Allen, A., Malatesta, J. (April, 2022). Visual arts activities relate to cortisol and observed interest for preschool children.
- Brown, E.D., Holochwost, S.J., Wolf, D.P., Garnett, M.L., Velazquez-Martin, B., Varnell, S., Allen, A., Malatesta, J., Blumenthal, M.A., & Tettey, E. (April, 2022). Creative arts and child stress regulation: Should teachers guide or get out of the way?
- Brown, E.D., Holochwost, S.J., Wolf, D.P., Garnett, M.L., Velazquez-Martin, B., Varnell, S., Allen, A., Malatesta, J., & Hennessey, K. (April, 2022). Cortisol relates to emotion expression for young children facing economic hardship.
On June 10, Dennie Palmer Wolf presented at the Weill Music Institute Annual Lullaby Convening, Carnegie Hall, New York.
- Wolf, D. (2022, June). Lullaby Research Session. Weill Music Institute Annual Lullaby Convening, Carnegie Hall, New York.
On October 7, REACH investigators were excited to present this study at a convening of the Mason Arts Research Center (ARC):
- Brown, E.D., Holochwost, S.J., Wolf, D.P., Allen, A., Charya, P., Garnett, M.L., Velazquez-Martin, B., Varnell, S., and Schnarr, E. (2022, October). The Magic’s in the Making Music: Music, Dance, and Cortisol for Preschool Children Facing Adversity.
In January, a new article by REACH investigators will be published! The work was facilitated by a prior NEA award:
- Brown, E.D., Weaver, Z., Streich, M., Shivde, G., & Garnett, M.L. (2023). Cortisol across preschool day relates to teacher ratings of executive functioning for children facing economic hardship. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 62, 31-40. DOI:10.1016/j.ecresq.2022.07.006
In January, Steven J. Holochwost will lead a professional development session on social-emotional learning for teachers from Prince George’s County Public Schools in association with Arts for Learning Maryland and the previously awarded Education Innovation and Research Grant.
On March 23-25, the following REACH studies will be presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development to be held in Salt Lake City, Utah:
- Varnell, S., Brown, E.D., Holochwost, S., Wolf, D.P., Allen, A., Malatesta, J., Garnett, M.L., & Velazquez-Martin, B. (2023, March). Visual Arts Activities Relate to Interest and Cortisol for Children in Head Start Preschool.
- Brown, E.D., Holochwost, S.J., Wolf, D.P., Allen, A., Charya, P., Garnett, M.L., Velazquez-Martin, B., & Varnell, S. (2023, March). The Magic’s in the Making Music: Music, Dance, and Cortisol for Preschool Children Facing Adversity.
In Paper Symposium: Prevalence of Arts Engagement in Childhood and Associated Benefits for Cognitive, Physiological, and Social-Emotional Outcomes
Chair: Melissa Menzer, firstname.lastname@example.org, National Endowment for the Arts
April 24: Save the Date for the 1st REACH Convening to be held at Settlement Music School, Philadelphia, PA. Email email@example.com for details.