‘Having a blast’ with online experiments as The Science Zone goes virtual

Closed doors won’t prevent students from interacting with science at Wyoming-based museum

With most of us looking for activities to fill our time in during COVID-19 restrictions, The Science Zone has hypothesized, experimented, and found just the solution.

The Casper, Wyoming-based museum recently launched its Daily Dose of Science program, which posts short, easy-to-digest, and often highly entertaining science videos daily. Topics are described by executive director Steven Schnell as “anything goes,” with recent videos covering crystals, yeast, catapults and geysers, to name a few.

And while these experiments may not teach “essential” skills—they sure are fun.

“We’re really trying to produce content that is highly engaging, interactive and also high in quality,” says Schnell. “This is our way of exciting people about science and making science education accessible wherever our viewers happen to be in the world.”

While The Science Zone can’t have the museum open because of COVID-19 restrictions, educators and staff have jumped at the opportunity to find new ways to reach students and families virtually.

In addition to the Daily Dose of Science videos, The Science Zone has operated a secondary, content-rich program called Learn with the Doc. For lessons geared to a younger age group, the Virtual Idea Lab program conducts video conferencing sessions where kids can complete engineering challenges at home while connecting online with peers.

“When the school district announced that kids wouldn’t be in class, it made us rethink,” says Schnell. “Our staff immediately came together to discuss how we could continue our mission, and that’s how it turned into this Daily Dose of Science and other programs.”

As part of our commitment to improving quality of life in the communities where we operate, Enbridge recently gave $5,000 towards the Daily Dose of Science program. The funding will assist in developing videos and offset the overhead costs of production.

“It’s crazy how much time goes into a two-to-three-minute video,” says Schnell. “Having external supporters like Enbridge allows us to run these programs in a way that we feel is right.”

If the three current programs launched by The Science Zone weren’t enough, Schnell notes that even more online offshoot science activities are coming soon.

Within the Daily Dose of Science, the program will soon start Wild Wednesday, which will feature the reptiles in the museum’s zoo zone, and has launched Super Science Saturday, which offers live education in webinar style to take a lesson with a microbiologist.

Looking even further down the line, the museum is looking at:

  • The Virtual Science Variety Show fundraiser on May 28, with large-scale science demonstrations
  • Drive-by science birthday demonstrations for children who may be missing out on a traditional birthday party in 2020
  • Lab-based offerings for families and adults, with all necessary COVID-19 precautions
  • A series of outdoor science camps during the summer

When wondering how The Science Zone team has the energy to maintain all of these programs, Schnell points to one reason: the kids.

“Hearing a child completely elated that they’ve just figured something out is sometimes the fuel we need to keep going,” says Schnell.

The online community concentrated across The Science Zone’s social media pages also provides an unfiltered channel for viewers to share their experience.

“That internal joy we all feel is huge.”