While the museum has been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sci-Tech has offered free online programming, such as its Preschool Science Time and monthly webinars aimed at families.
“We just want to make sure that we're still engaging with our regular folks and giving them content to keep them active,” said Sloane Pielli, director of Sci-Tech Discovery Center’s Education Department.
Pielli said Sci-Tech’s online Mini-MAKER design challenges have garnered a lot of attention from viewers.
“[Families] learn what the challenge is, and they go off for the rest of the week to try out the challenge at whatever pace works for them,” Pielli said. “And they can start sending us submissions of pictures or videos of whatever it is they've created in that design challenge. Then we show that off on our social media.”
She said those regular classes and webinars will wrap up at the end of June, so staff members can pivot toward planned outreach programs.
“We will still create content in the form of videos and activities that people can go to anytime they want,” Pielli said. “But as far as the live online classes that we've been doing, those will stop.”
She explained that programming usually ends in the summer because Sci-Tech needs the classroom space. This year it is ending because staff members will be going out in the community to spread knowledge on science, technology, engineering and math.
“We are taking our mobile STEM programming to summer schools, Montessori schools, a lot of our typical summer clients,” Pielli said. “We are not allowing them to come to us, which is something that they would normally do on a field trip.”
She said the museum has received a lot of interest from local groups about hosting an event in person.
“They're not as interested in the virtual [events],” Pielli said. “I think the kids have been staring at a screen long enough.”
Sci-Tech plans to reassess its plans after the July 4 holiday, Pielli said, to determine when the museum will reopen. She said the city of Frisco recently reopened the museum’s building to staff members ahead of the upcoming children's summer camps.
Those in-person camps will begin June 15 with reduced class sizes to allow for social distancing.
“We've been building in to the curriculum with the kids' discussions about germ science and the importance of washing hands,” Pielli said. “We have activities and games that we can play to get the kids into the habit of always making sure that they're being safe when they're in the classroom.”
The museum will also be limiting the number of staff members working during those camps, so there are no more than 50 people in the building at once, Pielli said. There will also be increased cleanings of the facility, and staff members will be wearing masks, she said.
“We're restructuring how the kids do their hands-on activities,” Pielli said. “We still want it to be hands on. We're just making sure that we're not having a lot of high-touch, high-contact things during the day.”