Sarah McGinn ’24

Temple University, Temple Infant and Child Lab, Philadelphia, PA

This summer, I worked as an intern at the Temple University Infant and Child Lab in Philadelphia. I worked as a data collector on the Play Streets/Playful Learning research project, which has been running for several years. The project was to evaluate the effects of Play Captains being present on designated Play Streets in low-income, high-crime neighborhoods in Philadelphia. These Play Captains were trained in playful learning by local community-based organization Fab Youth Philly, which our lab partnered with.

We took data on these play streets when the Play Captains were present and not present, noting how many children were present, how much conversation was occurring, technology usage, what activities were happening, the extent to which the activities and interactions facilitated the development of skills such as collaboration and critical thinking, the emotional valence of all the children and adults present, and more. We also took data at a number of summer camps in Philadelphia for further comparison. In addition, at several of these camps we took data on the campers’ individual attitudes toward reading. The data analysis for all of our work has not yet been shared with us, but I am excited to see the findings. I am optimistic that the data will show the Play Captains program having a very positive effect.

As a psychology and English major planning to attend graduate school, this internship gave me hands-on experience doing fieldwork face-to-face in a non-lab setting. I learned about data collection, longitudinal research and, through interviews, the paths and day-to-day responsibilities of multiple possible careers in psychology. I also gained extremely important life experience. Beyond this being my first ever “real job” with a schedule, supervisor and coworkers, I’d never lived in a city before. I learned how to navigate public transportation, how to stay safe in potentially risky locations, and also how to talk with people—especially children, parents and educators—whose life experiences differed greatly from mine. I also acquired a better understanding of how psychology research can fit into activism.

Evaluating existing social programs for their efficacy to learn what works and what doesn’t at an individual and community level—and using existing research to improve those programs (and potentially replicate successful ones)—is work I find very valuable. While I don’t know yet exactly what subfield of psychology I want to study long-term, these experiences gave me a new perspective on how psychology can be used to help underserved people.

I would like to thank the ’68 Center for guiding me through the process of searching for this internship, creating and revising my résumé and preparing for my interview. I’ve never done anything like this before, so it was extremely helpful having their guidance.