About the Work
Current Projects and Activities
Carnegie Hall – Lullaby Project
With the support of the William Penn Foundation and in collaboration with Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute, REACH researcher, Dennie Palmer Wolf, is investigating the impact of composing, singing, and musical play on caregivers and children between 18 and 36 months, examining whether and how musical composition and play fosters mutuality, self-regulation, and the development of communicative skills in young families. As part of the same study, Wolf and colleagues are looking at the ways in which participating in a Lullaby project may develop caregivers' (especially mothers') sense of agency and social connectedness. Finally, the study explores ways to capture the impact of participation on collaborating musicians and researchers.
In the Fall of 2021, the team focused on developing ways to deliver the project with high levels of fidelity online, along with using widely-available phone-based apps to keep families engaged and connected.
In the Winter-Spring of 2022, researchers will use random assignment to enroll families in one of two phases of a time-lag design which will allow us to compare the results of ongoing child and family development with the results for children and families enrolled in an intensive 6- week lullaby project. We will be gauging the impact of participating in lullaby on expressed emotion and mutuality in play; language growth, and the caregivers' conceptions of their children's behavior and internal lives. We will also be collecting qualitative interview data from musicians and researchers regarding changes in their understanding of families and the ways in which those conceptions shape their work.
The Lullaby Project has been the focus of these recent presentations and podcasts:
Wolf, D.P. (2022, January) "Assessing Impact: Why Lullaby Matters." Invited session: International Lullaby Project 10th Anniversary Convening. Carnegie Hall. Virtual due to COVID-19.
Innovation Agency. (2021, December). Lullaby Project Hits the Right Note—Part two (Season 21, Episode 25). Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://audioboom.com/posts/8000776-lullaby-project-hits-the-right-note-part-two.
Innovation Agency. (2021, December). Lullaby Project Hits the Right Note—Part One (Season 21, Episode 24). Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://audioboom.com/posts/8000772-lullaby-project-hits-the-right-note-part-one.
Wolf, D.P. (2021, November) "The Lullaby Project Has Arrived | Magic Happens." Invited panel: Cheshire and Merseyside Baby Week. Virtual due to COVID-19.
Wolf, Dennie Palmer. (2021, June) "Four foundations for understanding the import and impact of lullabies." Invited session: International Lullaby Project Conference. Carnegie Hall. Virtual due to COVID-19.
Courtney J. Boddie. (2021, August). Dennie Palmer Wolf—Oxygen in the Bloodstream (Episode 44, ACT 2). Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/episode-44-act-2-dennie-palmer-wolf-oxygen-in-the/id1209631828?i=1000531850981.
Courtney J. Boddie. (2021, August.). Dennie Palmer Wolf—Oxygen in the Bloodstream (Episode 44, ACT 1). Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/episode-44-act-1-dennie-palmer-wolf-oxygen-in-the/id1209631828?i=1000531124611.
Settlement Music School – Kaleidoscope Project
Across the past decade, Settlement Music School's Kaleidoscope Preschool Arts Enrichment Program has provided robust data on the impact of music and the arts for children facing economic hardship (Brown, 2020). A Head Start site serving children facing economic hardship, Settlement's Kaleidoscope Preschool is widely recognized for its early childhood arts integration, which involves daily music, music and movement, and visual arts classes taught by credentialed artist teachers in equipped studios. Our data have indicated that children at Kaleidoscope show reduced stress levels after music and arts classes (Brown, Garnett, Anderson, & Laurenceau, 2017) and show increased growth in emotion regulation (Brown & Sax, 2013) and school readiness (Brown, Benedett, & Armistead, 2010; Brown, Garnett, Velazquez-Martin, & Mellor, 2018) compared with peers at matched preschools that are not fully arts integrated. Settlement is an ongoing research partner, and the REACH Lab builds on our decade of collaboration to extend scientific understanding of how the arts can promote equity for children facing poverty, racism, and related forms of adversity. We begin our agenda with a focus on music and self-regulation.
Using an experimental design with random assignment, and in two phases corresponding to two study years, we will compare neurophysiological and self-regulatory functioning after music versus comparison classes. The music classes will include early childhood music as well as music and movement. These will be compared to an alternate arts intervention class (visual arts) as well as a non-arts intervention class typically delivered in Head Start preschools ("homeroom"). Our overarching hypothesis is that neurophysiological measures will indicate decreased stress levels and increased peripheral nervous system (PNS) activity (a state of calm engagement), and enhanced self-regulation following the music classes versus the comparisons.
Using experimental as well as quasi-experimental within- and between-subjects components, we will examine proposed "active ingredients" in the early childhood music classes in relation to the neurophysiological and self-regulatory outcomes of interest.
With the proposed, strategic combination of experimental and quasi-experimental components, the isolation of specific aspects of curriculum and pedagogy, and the measurement of neurophysiological processes as well as self-regulatory outcomes, we will illuminate the impact of music on physiological, emotional, and behavioral regulation, and the ways in which music and its lessons become internalized over time. The study will provide evidence that will guide early childhood music interventions to promote equity for children at risk via poverty, racism, and related forms of systematic disadvantage.
The Kaleidoscope project has been the focus of these recent presentations:
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. 2023 Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Salt Lake City, UT.
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. 2023 Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Salt Lake City, UT.
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. MasonARC22 Conference, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA.
Brown, E.D. (2021, November). Toxic Stress: The Biopsychology of Ending Poverty. West Chester University First Year Experience: Disease, Health, & Society: Psychological Perspectives. Virtual due to COVID-19.
Davis, T., & Brown, E.D. (2021, October). Bridging the Achievement Gap: Arts-Integrated Early Childhood Education. Philanthropy Network SPARX Conference. Virtual due to COVID-19.
Akbar, G.L., & Brown, E.D. (2021, June). The Impact of Two Pandemics (COVID-19 & Structural Racism) on Child and Family Development: How Do We Promote Healing and Resilience? Research Address: Chester County Aces Coalition. Virtual due to COVID-19.
Davis, T., & Brown, E.D. (2021, June). Integrating the Arts in Early Childhood: Coaching to Success: Leading Conversations that Empower Childcare Owners & Operators as Business Leaders. Virtual due to COVID-19.
Davis, T., & Brown, E.D. (2021, June). The Art of Early Childhood Education. Public Citizens for Children and Youth. Virtual due to COVID-19.
Davis, T., & Brown, E.D. (2021, May). The Art of Early Childhood Education. Representative Mary Louise Isaacson, PA District 175. Virtual due to COVID-19.
Play on Philly – Tuning the Heartstrings
In our previous work, we found that participating in music education yielded benefits to children's executive functions. Tuning the Heart Strings explores whether these benefits are transmitted, at least in part, by changes in children's parasympathetic nervous system activity. This project is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, and is being conducted in collaboration with Play on Philly.
More information about this project is coming soon.
More information about this project is coming soon.