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Field trip in a box

When COVID-19 makes it impossible for students to go to the Bradbury Science Museum, the Bradbury Science Museum comes to them.
August 28, 2020
Here, a group of students work on Manhattan Project activities at the Museum — pre-pandemic (so no masks or social distancing).

Here, a group of students work on Manhattan Project activities at the Museum — pre-pandemic (so no masks or social distancing). For field trip kids, “we thought that maybe we could put together kits of the little radios, which are actually small media players, and the wooden cipher that could be sent to the students. We could load the radios with encoded messages and with WWII-era radio programs. We could create an activity that would encompass the Manhattan Project, radio, and encryption,” says Mel Strong.

These virtual field trip kits are free!

 

When the pandemic hit earlier this year, museums across the globe shut their doors. Then, the big question was: What next? They could put their collections online, offer virtual tours, set up webpages with activities and videos…but what about a museum like the Bradbury, which is steeped in hands-on experiences for students? Educator Mel Strong knew that, while virtual field trips can have their perks, they can’t offer the full breadth of what the Bradbury has to offer. 

Take a field trip themed around the Manhattan Project as an example, he says. Sure, students will watch a movie and look at artifacts at the museum. “But a significant portion of their time is spent doing hands-on activities that relate to communications during World War II,” he says. From Morse Code keys to a period-correct radio to decoding tools, the group learns by trying things out. 

“Staring at a screen is not a substitute for a field trip, but when you consider that students are now online and staring at screens for most of their day now, it becomes even less attractive,” Mel says. 

The answer? Themed kits — pertaining to the Manhattan Project, for example, or the Bradbury’s ribosome exhibit — filled with materials for students to use (and often keep). 

The immunity-themed kit focuses on understanding how viruses make us sick, says educator Chelsea Redman. The kit contains a pencil, scotch tape, scissors, cardstock, plastic sauce cups and labeled plastic building flakes. “The activity simulates one way that viruses hijack our cells and their machinery and how our body responds,” she says. Follow-up components will help students visualize the purpose of mask-wearing, social distancing and stay-at-home orders. 

materials kit
An immunity-themed kit, still in progress.
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More immunity-themed field trip kit components.

Mel and Chelsea are still brainstorming themes, assembling kits and sorting out details. As they do, an interesting possibility is bubbling up. The kits could actually give the educators the chance to go more in depth than before. “We may connect to the students more than once over several weeks, becoming far more involved with a school group than a single two-hour visit to the museum would normally allow,” Mel says.

To learn more about the Bradbury’s virtual educational programming, or if you’re an educator interested in offering feedback on our Virtual Field Trip survey, please contact us bsm-edu@lanl.gov.