Community Collaboration: Cedar Valley CoLab and Gustavus Psychological Science

Posted on November 8th, 2016 by


Two Gustavus Psychological Science research groups from PSY 225-001 and PSY 244 took their Spring research beyond the classroom and out into the St. Peter community. The projects focused on researching and evaluating the needs of two different organizations in the community: The Creative Play Place For Everyone and The Third Floor Youth Center. The students teamed with the Cedar Valley CoLab which is a community collaboration laboratory and co-work space that integrates the needs of community organizations and leaders with Gustavus students. Members from the two research groups were asked a few questions in regards to their experiences working with the Cedar Valley CoLab and the two community organizations.

The Creative Play Place (CPP) has provided a space in the St. Peter Community Center for children and their families to play in an environment that develops the whole child. As the population of St. Peter, MN has become more diverse, the children who use the CPP has not reflected this same diversity. Therefore, Gustavus students worked to determine what barriers might exist for new St. Peter families, and how as a community we can welcome everyone to important resources such as CPP.

image-3In a short sentence or two, how would you summarize the work that you did with our community partner this semester? (What was the purpose of your research project? What did you hope to accomplish?)

“The purpose of our research project was to come up with recommendations for the Creative Play Place to help them increase the diversity within the families that come there.” – Rachel Witt

What did you conclude from the results of your research? What do you think is the most important “take-away” from your results?

“I feel like one of the biggest challenges we found regarding diversity at the Play Place is simply the cultural differences between different races and ethnicities, particularly the Hispanic and Somali populations in St. Peter.  Even if you take away the cultural differences, most members of these populations are at a disadvantage regarding income, location, transportation, housing, language, and many other things, making it hard for them to come to or want to be at the Play Place.” – Rachel Witt

The Third Floor Youth Center provides children in grades 3 through 6 with after-school activities such as computers, Wii games, art, and homework help. This Center will be moving from its current location at North Intermediate to its new location in the former High School building in the upcoming year. Research Methods students are working to provide the Center with credible and actionable data that could be used to make decisions about the future structure of the Third Floor Youth Center as well as the programs and services it provides.

In a short sentence or two, how would you summarize the work that you did with our community partner this semester? paint(What was the purpose of your research project? What did you hope to accomplish?)

Our PSY-225 group (Lili Rothschild, Tanner Olson, Kaitlyn Johnson, and Jonathan Burow) worked with the St. Peter Community Center to help evaluate the extent to which students felt like their needs and desires were being met by The Third Floor Youth Center, an after-school program for kids in 3rd through 6th grade. We also aimed to assess the interest among 7th and 8th graders regarding extending programming to include older children, with the new St. Peter High School to be completed in Fall 2017 allowing for potential restructuring of current programming.” – Lili Rothschild

Comments regarding benefits/ what we learned:

“As a part of PSY-225, students come in with the expectation of learning research methodology that will teach them how to plan and execute a study, as well as better understand the fundamentals of psychological research. We were lucky enough to not only develop a foundation in research skills, but to also have the opportunity to engage the St. Peter Community. Through this experience, we learned how to design a study that fit the needs of community members, increase the involvement of children through explaining the goals of our research to parents and educators, and effectively communicate our findings to educators and community members in a clear and concise manner. Although several members of our group had had some exposure to psychological research previously, this experience held different significance, because of its value to the community and its potential to lead to change in St. Peter after-school programs. This project increased my personal desire to apply my psychological research in the future to community settings, as well as improve the communication of research findings to the community in order for the general population to benefit from such findings.” – Lili Rothschild

If you would like to learn more about the Cedar Valley CoLab and these research projects, please follow this link

Submitted by Marissa Smook ’17


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