Finding Our Way Forward with A Core Value
For a science museum with hundreds of hands-on ways to learn, adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic was no small feat. Through planning, learning, pivoting and innovating, the evolution of our science education experiences during the early days of coronavirus led our teams and guests to some surprising places. But to bring back the Science Center we know and love, ultimately we had to look at our team’s five foundational core values, a set of guiding principles that remind us to engage in open communication, be curious and open to learning, bring out the best in everyone, to experiment and to have fun.
Take a look at some of the key moments in how our Education team evolved their approach to engagement this year.
The Saint Louis Science Center reopened on June 18, and the gallery team was ready to connect with guests right from the beginning. But we knew that in a time of social distancing things would look and feel different, both for ourselves and our community.
In 2020, the Science Center was one of 30 locations nationwide to unveil an image for the Hubble telescope’s 30th anniversary. Once we reopened, “The Cosmic Reef” was displayed on a banner inside the Planetarium, allowing guests to see and experience the wonder of the cosmos up close while also inviting them to make connections to nearby exhibits on spectroscopy, space flight and more.
Although some experiences like Discovery Room were closed, socially distanced activities like Science Storytime helped fill in the gap for our smallest scientists.
As people returned to the building, the gallery team noticed guests wanting to engage in more in-depth conversations across a variety of topics. According to Liz Senzee, associate director of gallery programs, “Reopening and having the opportunity for in-depth conversations with our guests reaffirmed our belief that those moments are central to how we connect with people and bring science to life.”
By adapting technology both old and new, the team was able to bring guests closer to science, even at a distance. Here, an old security camera highlights the details of mask making in Makerspace, while in the Life Science Lab an iPhone zooms in on the very beginnings of life for a Harlequin bug.
Each year, the Education team picks one of the Science Center’s five foundational core values to guide program planning and development. After voting, the team chose “Experiment and Innovate” as the theme heading into 2021. This value reflects the openness to trying new ideas and the commitment to refining those experiences to make them even more accessible.
By taking the things our team learned over the past several months, we’re continuing to experiment and innovate. This Fall, Science Conversation Stations made their debut. Located in many of our galleries, Science Conversation Stations allow educators to connect with guests and families using technology and one-on-one conversations, delivering science experiences that are safe and fun but also show that learning doesn’t stop—not even for a pandemic.