On April 30, 2020, Vermont Institute of Natural Science, ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium, and Montshire Museum of Science launched FourScienceVT, a consortium to provide critical support for the science education needs of Vermonters during the Covid-19 Coronavirus crisis.
The goal of FourScienceVT is to provide STEM educational content, programs, and resources from four trusted science museums to Vermonters across the state. Together the institutions seek to meet the social and emotional needs of struggling families during this time of great uncertainty through integrated online and in-person learning experiences.
As the pandemic continues to shutter schools, early childhood learning centers, out-of-school environments, and other informal learning spaces, these Vermont-based museums have banded together to provide resources in various online formats. Through offerings such as live science broadcasts on Zoom and Facebook, video content with friendly and knowledgeable educators, behind-the-scenes tours of collections, and downloadable resources for families and teachers, the group’s collaborative efforts cover a spectrum of learners.
“Working together, we are able to provide a greater variety of learning resources, each leveraging our core collections, science experiences, and expertise,” said Montshire’s executive director Marcos Stafne. “Our ability to reach multiple audiences with high quality STEM content and to direct people to local science content happening in our state helps give Vermont families and teachers a place to turn to for inspiration and intellectual stimulation.”
The mission of the consortium is to provide high quality STEM education experiences to Vermonters during a time of crisis. The group also offers support to each other. “Each museum has the need to care for their collections, facilities, and employees, while developing new digital learning opportunities—all in a time of trauma,” noted ECHO’s executive director, Phelan Fretz. “Our teams have been meeting on a regular basis to share best practices for digital engagement and action plans for safely reopening.”
To guide people through the stream of digital and downloadable resources, the group has developed FourScienceVT.org, a curated platform for families and schools to access Vermont-centric STEM interactive curriculum and experiences. “It’s a new world of digital engagement,” said Fairbanks’ executive director Adam Kane. “We made a quick shift to delivering programming online and have seen our viewership grow exponentially. Teachers are especially hungry for high-quality STEM content.”
“We know that in the best of times, teachers reach out to each of our museums for STEM support, and we have long established connections with local schools,” said Charles Rattigan, executive director of VINS. “It’s a natural fit for our individual teams to work together to both create dynamic STEM experiences and get the message out. We’re here to support Vermonters during this time of need and hope to address the STEM education access disparity inherent in our rural communities.”
While this consortium has formed in a time of crisis, each museum has looked into the future when the individual institutions will serve as a place of recovery for families and schools. Creating a collaboration now works toward a targeted resource for STEM learning in the future, when schools and families will need additional support. For more information about FourScienceVT, visit FourScienceVT.org.