With coronavirus largely closing the public sphere, parents are seeing more of their kids and, with schools and other institutions closed, taking an enhanced role in educating them. The Museum of Science and Industry has stepped up to the times, publishing a website, www.msichicago.org/science-at-home, with activities and resources to continue its mission during the pandemic.
"What's been exciting for the museum is that we've recognized for quite some time that science happens quite literally everywhere, said Rabiah Mayas, who heads education and guest experience at MSI. "Our building is one of the wonderful places that we've engaged guests, but neighborhoods, schools and people's homes have always been part of our educational mission."
More than 30 experiments, videos and games are available on the web page for children of all ages to stay connected with science. Some were published online before the pandemic, but Mayas said others have been posted out of the museum's vault or adapted from programming areas at the museum in recent weeks. New resources will be published regularly.
"People who check out the site can build stomp rockets at home and launch them, make slime, make a newspaper fort," she said. "These are designed to be things that can be done with everyday materials at home, so people can stay safe while activating their curiosity at the same time."
Making a "Sound Sandwich," for instance, takes two craft sticks, a wide rubber band, two smaller rubber bands, a straw and scissors. Six steps yield the sandwich through which children can blow and feel vibrations, demonstrating sound waves caused by a rubber band moving up and down quickly between the sticks.
An "Egg Bungee" demonstrates the Law of Conservation of Energy by dropping an egg from a height at which it is still protected by a rubber band's elasticity. A game teaches about simple machines. A video shows how the U-505 submarine, which weighs as much as three Statues of Liberty, was put into place at the museum.
All the while, MSI is additionally looking at its content and evaluating ways to reorient virtual offerings around health and safety.
"The museum, just like everyone else in the world right now, is focused on making sure that people stay healthy, that people stay safe, and the science behind that is incredibly relevant," Mayas said, from the science of hand-washing to how viruses spread. MSI has already received positive feedback from families and educators grateful to have trusted, credible, accessible and fun activities to do while quarantined.
"One of the things that is really exciting, and has always been exciting, is the opportunity to spark the people who will actually change our future using science," she said.
"The future researchers, medical professional and engineers who are going to design the solutions to keep us healthy, safe and to hopefully prevent future challenges from affecting on a global scale — the museum and our activities and our programs are all designed to spark that curiosity, to get people excited and interested and hopefully set them on a path for innovation in the future."