Swinging into Action: How our Education Team Is Bringing the Museum to You


March 20, 2020
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When the Houston Museum of Natural Science closed for business on March 16 as the city of Houston buckled down to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 patients, the museum’s educational department swung into action.

HMNS Videographer John Danielson along with VP of Education Nicole Temple, Director of Curriculum and Content Kat Havens, Assistant Director of Youth Education Kelsey Friedemann, and Youth Education Facilitator Harry Hogeland teamed up to create a whole series of video content to keep the learning adventure going at home while the world rides out the global pandemic. 

Keeping those famous HMNS “ah-ha!” learning moments coming was a worthy challenge that Temple’s team tackled with glee. Luckily, they had all they needed under one roof. The marathon video shoot before the museum officially closed took full advantage of all the brainpower we had under one roof.

“We already had a list of what we wanted to film and who was doing what so we went from person to person,” Temple says. “When one person got started, we told the next person to get ready so there was no down time.”

The museum has the distinct advantage of being staffed by some stellar instructors.

“Generally, the museum has the great privilege of bringing science to life for learners of all ages. We help develop an interest in a topic and then build content,” Temple says. “Our medium, our advantage for educating students is that we have the real objects, specimens, the live animals, the chemical reactions and so on that allow us to bring science to life.”

Making the magic of the museum come to life has been job one, even if the museum’s doors are currently locked to patrons.

“Our challenge right now is to transfer the magic of those personal, one-on-one experiences and hands-on lessons into a digital format while still keeping the magic that comes from individual moments and human interaction,” Temple adds.

Temple says that at this point they have more ideas than actual time, resources and access to the building to make them all happen.

Parents and guardians at home that are now finding themselves as full-time teachers are reaching out for resources as well.

“They are all trying to figure out what’s available and what will work for their kids because they have never had to consider learning styles and interests before,” Temple says. “For example, if a kid hates reading but loves dinosaurs, you can now get them to read about dinosaurs. So parents are looking for whatever we have online about dinosaurs.”

A lot of parents have reached out to Temple and her team asking for guidance on navigating our — hopefully temporary — normal. “Keep a routine. Do it even if it isn’t as easy or fun as your normal weekend routine. Get kids involved in as much around the house as you can,” Temple says. “If you bake something you can talk about fractions when getting ingredients together, chemical and physical reactions, states of matter and so on. 

Download a printable activity guide here.

Keeping children reading is also a major key. Studies show that kids who read over the summer show no or less loss in information from one grade to the next compared to their non-reading counterparts.

Physically, our doors may be closed, but the museum is always just a click away! We’re bringing the museum to you with #HMNSatHome. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and our official website.

Though our physical doors are closed March 17 – 27, 2020, our virtual doors remain open. Finding ways to creatively bring science to you is our highest priority. Your contributions matter today more than ever, as we strive to continue full pay for staff during this time and ensure that the museum is ready and able to welcome you back. Please GIVE TODAY to help support our mission of science education.

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Authored By Craig Hlavaty

Craig Hlavaty has been covering Houston pop-culture since 2006 at various outlets around the city. He is currently the social media manager at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and eats his tamales with ketchup.

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