Selected Research

Learning Cognitions | Arts in Core Education | Collaborative Game Design

*National Science Foundation Reviewer

National Science Foundation (NSF)

National Science Foundation (NSF)

National Science Foundation (NSF) Reviewer: Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR). We are a congressionally mandated program.

I am a part of a team of experts in the Learning Cognitions program who fund startups across technology areas and markets like artificial intelligence, educational programs, augmented reality, virtual reality, and more. We review start-up proposals for Phase 1 and Phase 2 America's Seed Fund Research and Development. We focus on transforming scientific and engineering discoveries into products and services with commercial and societal impact. The deep technologies we fund show promise but their success hasn’t yet been validated. And, each year, the NSF awards $200+ million in research and development (R&D) funding to about 400 startups across the United States. America’s Seed Fund is a program within the National Science Foundation and housed within the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships within the Directorate for Engineering.

I have been chosen among the field of researchers and creatives to participate and was selected after presenting research at the Serious Play Conference by Diane Hickey of the NSF. 2019-2022

I continue to work with the new program director, Rajesh Mehta as of 10/2022 - present.

*University of Cincinnati Research

1996-1998 Lead Arts Researcher under Dr. Deborah Zorn, Department of Education.

As a part of a team of Graduate Researchers, our Published Paper secured funding from Fidelity Investments, Ohio Arts Council, University of Cincinnati, and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

I directed portrait style human research on the effectiveness of integrating art into the core curriculum such as social studies, science, and math. We found seed money for the Pilot Year of ArtWorks! in Cincinnati, OH.

*Research and Funding for ARTWorks!

ARTWorks! gave teenagers from all over the Greater Cincinnati area an opportunity to work, learn, and earn in summer jobs as apprentice artists. Under the guidance of professional artists, ARTWorks! apprentices help create works of art for public spaces, museums, and private collectors; gaining meaningful employment experience in a structured, professional setting that helps prepare them for the demands of the workplace. I conducted research delivering funding for the pilot year. This program went on to be a successful arts program for young citizens in the Cincinnati area and then into the rest of America.

*Association for the Advancement of Arts in Education (AAAE)

With the University of Cincinnati School of Education, I led arts research for a two-year study that surveyed hundreds of superintendents, principals, teachers, parents, school board members, artists, professional arts administrators, and community leaders regarding their views on arts education. 

The study found a positive element for change in arts education priorities and programs in the Tristate Greater Cincinnati area. With the inauguration of Arts Connections in 1997, more than 1,500 core teachers have been trained to integrate the arts across their curriculum, touching approximately 30,000 students. AAAE: In-service programs focus on brain-compatible learning and arts integration. 

I designed programs to fit the professional development needs of educators in the tri-state area. We developed portrait-style research and assessment tools.

AAAE Programs that were funded because of the research my team performed:

Arts Connections Program: 

Arts Connections was an intensive professional development program for teachers, administrators, parents, arts specialists, and other educators. A program based on the arts integration method of learning, Arts Connections took into account the fact that students learn and process information through different learning styles. Through this program, teachers learned how to use various art forms to teach social studies, language arts, mathematics, and more.

Sound Discoveries Program

Music for Life brought classical music into Cincinnati tri-state area schools. AAAE and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra developed in-school programs featuring orchestra members in specially designed programs to integrate the fundamentals of music with all areas of the curriculum.

Select Research shared at conferences:

Meaningful Play Conference:

Meaningful Play MSU
Meaningful Play Keg a Revolutionary War Card Game

Meaningful Play Presentation

Invited to Speak on Collaboration at the International Conference on Meaningful Play at Michigan State University 2022

Collaborative game development between middle school and college students, professors, game designers, and historians facilitates deep learning for all.


Powder Keg, A Revolutionary War Card Game, targeted learning outcomes for the middle school American history curriculum. This collaborative process included; game design, research, writing, illustration, card production, user testing, rule book design, a marketing video, packaging design, and a website.

We intentionally included diverse heroes and heroines like Crispus Attucks, Sayenqueraghta, and Margaret Shippen. The game mechanics lowered the effect of the historically mighty so that players could build winning decks with powerful minorities and common folk.

Every person in the pipeline learned, firsthand, the limitations and goals of the stakeholders. The game had to be educational, entertaining, user-tested, functional in a classroom, an accurate reflection of the history, meet curriculum standards, and look like it was produced by a professional game studio. Whew!

Susan Bonner is the Chair of Digital Art and Design at KCAD of FSU and the Founder of The Road Crew Health.