Science museums. Remember them? A vast treasure trove of educational equipment and personnel that is now on-hold.
Meanwhile, parents, all over the world, have to push themselves further and be teachers of subjects like science, math or arts.
Our inspiration, our mission, is to link these two worlds, giving families, world wide, the hypotheses to visit a science museum in an interactive way and, on the same level, add specific scientific knowledge in the process, with a little bit of fun!
We aim to:
1) Create easy and step-by-step tours from science centers and museums, that will guide the parents and children through a visit with questions, answers, trivia and connections with the school curricula, providing an educational and fun tour at the same time. This can be easily done thanks to our expertise in the science museum world.
2) Use the museum exhibits to explain scientific concepts. This is what we already do inside the museum, we just need to adapt to the online world.
3) Create a simple website and a mobile app, where we can share resources made by Science Centers/Museums with parents and children. Mainly it will create the opportunity for parents and students to access virtually to science museums in a simple and mostly interactive way.
4) Keep the museums and science centers running in its full core, providing revenue, with remote access, considering inputs from the STREAM (Science Technology Reading Engineering Arts and Mathematics) educational teams.
5) Connect STREAM educators to the wide world. Using science museum experience as our guiding line, we aim to reach beyond our countries borders. One of the main goals is to reach new audiences that do not have much possibility to access science centers. In a way, one of the positive aspects of this quarantine is that it equals the opportunities, regardless the geographic location.
How we built it
As previously stated, the parents should have easy access to resources.
Based on our previous experience with Science Museums, which relayed in direct contact with the public, we challenge ourselves to convert what we have done on the spot into a remote environment. We need to adapt our activities and tours to a reliable platform-based experience. By creating a new platform, we provide access to virtual visits to the museums with live guided tours and access to guidelines on how to perform at home science activities. This should be done in order to find a suitable way to explain various scientific and daily life concepts, regarding the transversal curricula plans and contents.
We want to improve the previous concepts of virtual tours in a new and trendy way: live online broadcasting. Aiming to build a personalized and fun model which allows us to perform guided tours with experienced explainers and science field specialists, creating pre established routes or synchronous videos.
The greater goal is to build a resourceful platform for parents, who are at home with their children, performing simultaneously the teacher’s role. This will also promote "field trips", guaranteeing the same possibility to the broad public, regardless of where they live.
Having all this in mind, we try to address 3 of the topics stated on the Primary and Secondary school specific challenges:
Assisting parents in taking over teachers’ role
Organising online excursions
Disproportionate learning outcomes after the lock down
After the social confinement is over, we will expand our target and will start working with schools, giving them possibilities that they haven't had before. How can we do this? By selling or renting (in a more sustainable way) pre-tested educational kits, ensuring guidance from an expertise in that field of science. This way we can provide an interactive experience to students all over the globe, giving them the possibility of being inside a Science Museum, even if they live kilometers away from the nearest one.
With these experimental kits, and the live guided tours, we will have some revenue that will help us to stay in business.
But what makes a scientific resource valuable?
After some team debate, we quickly come to the following conclusions:
1) We should provide pedagogical resources tested (peer-to-peer review)
2) They should assure interaction and interactivity for the public
3) The activities/resources must maintain a balance between scientific content and entertainment
4) All the resources on the app have to be time limited (to give families an idea of what they should expect)
5) They should address hot topics whenever possible, as well as addressing daily life scientific concepts
6) Live tours and live instructional videos should have time allocated to Q&A
By adding the number of visitors of the three science centers used as examples to help edit a business model, we have about 150,000 families (last year numbers). With our proposal, these families can enjoy virtual guided tours. Even if only 10% of these visitors are interested in our services, it could reach about 15,000 users. This number only represents three science centers. If we bet on advertising and dissemination in our partner networks, for example, Ecsite (which has more than 300 members worldwide), virtually all of them could join our service. By doing so, we could reach a potential user base in the million figures.
Although the initial investment is large, the market potential is also high.
Below, it is possible to observe a breakdown of the simplified business model that shows its potential.
Challenges we ran into
We struggled with some challenges: establishing the main goal of proving that we were capable of assembling our own project in a short time. This was all done without being able to go to our working places, using only what we know by heart and the visual memory of the Science Museum.
We dared ourselves in each step, believing that the project is feasible, making a commitment of finding a solution to the need of financial support. Even though we have lack of experience in app development, we went forward with this idea, focusing the content and making a tool that is original and attractive. Therefore, calculating the cost for the final app was a true challenge. We had to read some market research, watching some EUvsVirus webinars and reading some experts feedback.
Accomplishments that we are proud of
The project per se. We love the idea of interaction, especially with the youngsters. The opportunity to reach different audiences is highly important for us, alongside with the chance of reaching a broader audience when comparing with what we did pre-COVID-19. It's our chance to aid parents, who face more difficulties than they normally have to deal with in their daily lives, with their children at home, alongside with working remotely.
During the weekend we also managed to do a quick survey, of about 100 families, and this showed us the real potential of moving forward with this learning tool inspires us. Even though we speak different languages with different accents, the goal is one! Finding a solution with the eyes on the future, answering to a society demand. It’s undoubtedly an opportunity to reply to a demanding and increasing necessity of this type of solution not too far away.
The idea of bringing together all the science centers in one single platform and accessing all of them from the safety of our homes, being able to have the full Science Museum experience in a way that hardly a single person would manage to do in a lifetime.
It feels us with joy to provide families with this opportunity and we are resolute to make this project move forward.
What WE learned
If you had said to us, in a not too far away past, that our days would be spent in isolation, far from our workspaces and our loved ones, no one would believe that keeping in touch and maintaining productivity was possible. However, COVID-19 and all the current events, have proven us that we still can, together, overcome the situation. We proved that we were up to the task and we are creating new ways to spread our ideas and communicate with the public.
Reality surpasses fiction, making it possible from the scratch to generate great ideas that can actually be implemented in our societies, aiding the community with needed information and resources, while promoting equality between peers.
What's next for SciFunmily
We need to reach out to museums and science centers, showing them our business model, in order to convince them that this is the path to keep on spreading information and knowledge. We hope this will invite them to pursue this project with us. The prospective investors/partners that can financially support the project and that will help parents and children to boost their interest in the STREAM, must be aware of the game changing situation and how we face this project as part of the solution.
It’s also mandatory to improve our website, injecting more resources that need to be captured onsite, perform virtual trial visits to the Science Museum and manage, with an IT service, the full app structure. Looking ahead it’s also required to establish contact with researchers to perform live talks and guarantee the quality of the visits. And finally, present, as soon as possible, our service to the target audience: Families!
Summary of our project
The problem your project solves
This project focuses on two major problems caused by the COVID-19: one is with the families, most parents are home teaching their kids without the hypotheses of having interaction in terms of non-formal education by a third party; the other problem is the fact that Museums and Science Centers are closed, losing revenue, even firing people to be able to pay their exhibitions maintenance. It is our goal to connect families to Science Museums without compromising the interactivity of the experience.
The solution you bring to the table
Our solution is to create a website and an app that provides live stream content, connecting the scientific educators from Museums and Science Centers with families, contributing with the experience of a real tour, guided by a STREAM educator. In this service, the public can ask questions and interact with exhibits, responde to trivia and even do lab/tinkering experiences with an expert in the area. We will also have a set of experience kits that visitors can buy or rent, providing them the opportunity to do an experiment in sync with the Science Center staff remotely, Basically it’s a platform where we connect families to science culture.
What you have done during the weekend
After assembling the ideas, connecting experts/educators in STREAM, from two different countries (Portugal and Spain), we analyzed data regarding the visitors of three Science Centers. We also made a short online survey in order to understand the acceptance of our concept. The gathered data have shown that people care about the interactive part (that was the most mentioned factor), expecting activities for the whole family and not just for kids. It is also expected fun dynamics, assuring a guaranteed scientific background and that the resources have been adapted to the contents of different levels of curricula.
Also during the weekend, we have created the business model, predicting expenses and revenues, preparing ourselves for IT, marketing and communication issues. We’ve recorded a few videos and also prototyped a website. Basically, we created everything from scratch during the past two and a half days.
The solution’s impact to the crisis
Our project will bring families and Science Centers together. We can assure employment positions, because the Museums and Science Centers will be running online, providing interactive virtual tours, enabling everyone to enjoy science and culture. At the same time, we can focus on giving educational experiences and promoting interaction between the community and STREAM educators. The opportunity will spread to families all around the world in order to visit Museums and Science Centers for a lower cost rate and maintaining the interactivity. Families will have different ways of experiencing the service: one that everyone can use (free of charge, just make an appointment) or as they can sign up for premium content version (providing revenue to the project).
The necessities in order to continue the project
To continue our project we need to be financed, aiming to develop the app (as well as the website). To achieve this we need IT support. There is also the necessity to reach Museums and Science Centers showing them our idea and its potential. This is done in order to have more content and to keep it up to date.
The value of your solution(s) after the crisis
After the COVID-19 crisis, we can still provide the virtual live tours and the experimental kits not only to families, but to schools also. We can easily reach global by translating and adapting the content to other languages (National and English). With our network of Science Centers and Museums we can reach a broader public and provide even more content.