When Christian Greer became the new president and CEO of the Michigan Science Center last fall, he entered with a vision to implement the center as a hub for experimentation where critical thinking, creative problem solving and asking questions are top priority.
“It is unprecedented. For non-profits out there, they are struggling.” — Christian Greer, Michigan Science Center
Amid COVID-19 and the massive impact it has had on institutions like his, the Michigan Science Center has transitioned their operations to the digital space with live science presentations from their ECHO Distance Learning Studio.
With live science demonstrations every week day at 2:30 p.m. via their Facebook page, the demonstrations cover topics such as chemistry, astronomy and electricity among others. The new initiative recently received some national spotlight via Nightly News: Kids Edition with Lester Holt on NBC.
Click on the player above to hear how the Michigan Science Center is innovating during a downturn caused by COVID-19.
“The whole concept is less about entertainment and more on education and learning because that’s what our youth really need right now,” says Greer. “It’s designed in such a way that not only does it target and engage young kids but also their parents.”
The Michigan Science Center ECHO Team creates questions, gives basic background and then dives into the experimentation component. Greer points out that a highlight of the content within each experiment is making hypotheses.
“You know the hypothesis is the educated guess. You throw out an idea about what you think might happen and then you try to falsify it through experiment,” says Greer. “That’s what we do on the show and people get a chance to respond.”
For one of the demonstrations, viewers learned how to make hand sanitizer. Another taught kids how to make musical instruments at home.
“We’re all across the board in terms of science, technology, engineering and math,” says Greer, “and people are having a good time watching it.”
Managing a Museum During a Global Pandemic
Though their pivot to distance learning with interactive programming and “At Home Science” projects have helped engage with audiences at home, the Michigan Science Center as with other cultural institutions in the area face challenges.
Although Michigan is in the name, the science center receives no funding from the state. Instead, they rely on grants, admissions and sponsors to stay open.
“Now is the time for us to really double down on our efforts to support STEM education.”
With the massive economic toll caused by COVID-19, financial resources have become scarce.
“It is unprecedented and for non-profits out there, they are struggling,” says Greer. “We’re struggling in part because we can’t easily access the community. And with the communities that are in need, we have to be mindful of the issues associated with COVID-19, especially in a hard hit area like Detroit.”
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Greer says that membership at the center had increased, reaching the highest it has been in five years. Additionally, Greer states that the museum was about 133% ahead of budget with a robust programming line-up originally planned for this summer — all of which are now contingent upon the re-opening of the state with rigorous safety and health procedures.
With the current state of society, he emphasizes the criticality of STEM education.
“If you didn’t think STEM education was critical to our young people, now is the time for us to really double down on our efforts to support STEM education because it’s these young people that are going to help us prevent these pandemics in the future,” says Greer.
Despite challenges, Greer applauds his team for stepping up and staying dedicated to the Michigan Science Center’s mission.
“Whatever it takes to achieve that mission to get STEM out to people, connect those curious minds, we definitely want to do that and we’re not going to give up,” says Greer.