Bilingual, Bicultural and Brilliant! Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences Celebrates Diversity at NYC’s Ultimate Block Party Event

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World-renowned brain scientists from the University of Washington highlight the benefits of bilingualism through games and brainteaser exercises during the first-ever Ultimate Block Party. Researchers have discovered a relationship between language diversity and enhanced brain function, that indicates people, including children, are better at solving problems that require flexible thinking.

People, including children, who know more than one language tend to be better at solving problems that require flexible thinking.

The University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) today announced it is one of more than 30 participants in the first annual Ultimate Block Party taking place this weekend in New York City. The event, sponsored by Play for Tomorrow, aims to highlight the crucial role of play in children’s development and education. The interactive word games and brainteasers featured in the I-LABS booth demonstrate the benefits of being bilingual and bicultural. Geared toward children and parents that speak one language or several, the games are based on current research that highlights cognitive advantages of bilingualism in early childhood. The event will be held in the Naumburg Bandshell area of Central Park on Sunday October 3rd from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“This event is a great reminder that good old-fashioned play is vital to children’s development and success in both school and life,” notes Dr. Patricia Kuhl, I-LABS co-director and world-renowned expert on language acquisition. “Bilingual learning further enhances the chances for success. We think the kids and parents who visit our booth this weekend will have fun and learn something new.”

I-LABS researchers have found a relationship between diversity of language and enhanced brain function. For example, people, including children, who know more than one language tend to be better at solving problems that require flexible thinking when compared to people who know only one language. Scientists believe this is because bilingual brains are accustomed to “switching” back and forth between two languages and the variations in words, pronunciation and grammatical structure.

Bilingualism and learning diversity are key areas of focus for institute co-directors Drs. Patricia Kuhl and Andrew Meltzoff and their team of researchers. Their work is intended to understand the mechanisms in the brain that maximize learning in all children, regardless of the socio-economic and cultural circumstances of their birth. These include understanding how children’s initial brain development is affected by learning opportunities in their individual environments and how cultural stereotypes can raise or dampen expectations and aspirations in young learners.

I-LABS is one of the top research institutions in the world on the topics of language acquisition and cognition. Drs. Kuhl and Meltzoff have a track record of scientific breakthroughs that have dramatically changed views on how infants engage and learn from the world around them. Earlier this year, I-LABS opened its new MEG Brain Imaging Center on the University of Washington Campus in Seattle. The Center is host to the first brain-imaging device in the world calibrated for studying the brains of infants and young children.

About I-LABS
The Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences is an interdisciplinary center founded in 2003, and is dedicated to discovering the fundamental principles of human learning over the lifespan, with special emphasis on work that will enable all children from 0 to 5 years to achieve their full potential. By conducting innovative research and disseminating this knowledge to international audiences, I-LABS will quicken the pace from creating new knowledge about early learning to its use in society. The Institute's co-directors are Dr. Patricia K. Kuhl, Bezos Family Foundation Endowed Chair in Childhood Learning, and Dr. Andrew N. Meltzoff, Job and Gertrud Tamaki Endowed Chair, both at the University of Washington. Their scientific studies on children and adults have had far-reaching impact on cognitive science, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and education. Learn more about I-LABS at http://ilabs.washington.edu.
The Ultimate Block Party is co-sponsored by the LIFE Center (Learning in Informal and Formal Environments), which is one of six Science of Learning Centers funded by the National Science Foundation. Dr. Kuhl is also the director and principal investigator of LIFE, which represents a collaboration among the University of Washington’s I-LABS and College of Education, Stanford University and SRI International. For more information on LIFE go to http://www.life-slc.org.

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