Winchester Science Centre’s Science@Home activities spark curiosity around the world
On 29 March 2020, with its doors closed and live science shows on hold, Winchester Science Centre launched Science@Home as a way to bring STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) into people’s homes during what was expected to be a tough three week lockdown. Fast forward eighty days and the team are just about to complete their twelfth week of activities that have so far reached an audience of over a million from all around the world.
Within days of launching the first Curiosity Challenge, a week-long set of evolving hands-on activities, hundreds of people had shared it on social media, reaching almost a quarter of a million people in just one week. Thousands headed to the website to download the activity sheets that would start them on their Mission Space adventure, resulting in a 562% increase in website traffic compared to the previous week. Since then, social media followers from as far afield as Australia have asked for advice on how to take part, families have worked together to complete the challenges and school teachers have set the activities as part of their home schooling lesson plans.
As well as Curiosity Challenges, that have included building rockets, creating a family band and spending time in nature, Science@Home has brought a whole host of STEM activities and information to people not just from the UK but from across the globe, including America, Poland, Germany and India. A series of videos, including DIY Science demos such as make your own lava lamp, have been viewed more than 20,000 times, Ask the Expert sessions have seen children as young as four years old get answers to their STEM questions from real-life professionals and topic discussions around things like how to view the Pink Moon, when to watch the NASA launch and how civilisation is helping protect nature, have kept people educated and informed on some of the industry’s most exciting developments.
Having been designed to create group centred learning, where families and groups can learn and laugh together, the overwhelming success of Science@Home can be seen in the images shared and comments received from those taking part. Facebook messages have included comments such as: ‘Fantastic, thank you’, ‘Thank you! We can’t wait!’, ‘Amazing!’ and ‘Science lessons sorted for next week!’.
A teacher from an Isle of Wight primary school said: “Winchester Science Centre have been posting superb, easily achievable science experiments to help with home learning during this difficult time of school closure. My pupils have been so excited by them and had great success! The lava lamp was particularly popular with them.”
Ben Ward, Chief Executive of Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium, said: “We’re thrilled by how Science@Home has been received by our fans both at home and around the world. Our charity has a mission to spark curiosity in STEM in everyone and we didn’t want the fact that we are closed to stop us from achieving this. It’s amazing to see how so many people have engaged with the content that our Inspirers have created and we’re looking forward to evolving this over the next couple of months.”
From next week, Science@Home will be evolving. This week’s challenge, Weather in Space, will be the last brand new weekly challenge, however all 12 will remain on the Winchester Science Centre website for families to complete at their leisure. Starting on Sunday 21 June 2020, the team will be showcasing real-life STEM professions and linking them to hands-on challenges that relate to the skills needed for those careers. There will also be updates on what’s been going on at the Centre during lockdown and updates on the exciting new visitor experience that’s currently in development, as well as many of the fan favourite activities from the past 12 weeks.
Despite all this success, Winchester Science Centre is closed and has had to cancel all community outreach, education programmes and events, cutting off every vital revenue stream for the charity. The Centre has therefore joined the Science Centres For Our Future campaign. Together, over 40 members of the UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC), are calling on the government to set up an Emergency Resilience Fund to support the UK’s world-class network of regional science centres. Future-focussed science centres like Winchester Science Centre cannot apply for the Arts Council or Heritage Emergency grants. Without government support, many UK Science Centres are at risk and, at a time when science is so important, they are vital to ensuring STEM can be made approachable and engaging, helping to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.
See our Science@Home page on the website for all our Curiosity Challenges or for more information about the Science Centres For Our Future campaign click here. Follow us on Facebook, facebook.com/winchestersciencecentre/, and Twitter twitter.com/WinSciCentre.