The Life Science Centre sits at the heart of unique science village in Newcastle upon Tyne. In a typical year, their visitor’s centre welcomes an average of 300,000 people. But 2020 was not a typical year.
“Once we entered lockdown, we were looking for ways to engage with schools,” says Toni Hamill, Education Programme and Partnership Manager for the Centre for Life. “I’m a Scientist was really useful because we know that it’s safe, and it had been used in hundreds of schools across the UK already.”
The Visit Zone ran on the I’m a Scientist platform from October to December 2020. Explainers from the Life Science Centre were present in the live Chats to answer students’ questions.
Using the I’m a Scientist platform gave the team some certainty during an ever-changing pandemic: “It gave us confidence that we could still deliver our activities,” Toni says, “The platform is accessible from anywhere, so it didn’t matter if the government implemented additional restrictions. One school had a couple of students self-isolating and they were able to join in from home.”
While the Visit Zone was popular with schools who had visited the Life Science Centre recently, taking it online meant that they could also welcome schools who wouldn’t have visited previously due to location or lack of funds.
The team at the Life Science Centre were also pleased that the live Chats worked so well for students with special education needs. Toni explains, “There was a school who mentioned their children really enjoyed engaging without having to be face-to-face; they were a lot more confident and responded really well. The teacher was really keen that these online activities would continue post-lockdown. We’re trying to be more aware of making everything we do more accessible and so that was a nice surprise.”
Overall, students in the Visit Zone enjoyed speaking live with the scientists, teachers found it easy to use, and students could use the chat at their own pace.
Toni says, “One child said ‘I don’t like science, but I’m starting to like it now. The things the scientists are telling me are interesting.’ Potentially having these discussions ties into what we know about supporting science capital; having conversations with scientists means you can identify with them.”
“Our fantastic staff have been furloughed for most of the past year. I’m a Scientist was something they really looked forward to; it lifted their spirits and lifted team morale.”
Are you a museum or science centre interested in offering an online activity using the I’m a Scientist platform? Contact Shane McCracken at email@example.com
The Visit Zone was supported by UKRI.