Frankenstein200 Events: Ideas from NISE Net Partners Across the Country

Peter Nagy and Rae Ostman, Arizona State University

Led by Arizona State University in collaboration with the NISE Network, the Frankenstein200 project celebrates the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein in 2018. Between January and March, the Frankenstein200 research team visited events at museums across the country to collect data on how visitors think about science and responsibility and to learn more about how the hands-on activities were being used by Network partners. Here, we share some of the great things happening at different museum events. You might be able to incorporate some of these ideas into your own programming celebrating the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein!

Project background

The Frankenstein200 project has developed hands-on activities, an alternate reality game, and online challenges that explore themes from Frankenstein and connect them to emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and genetic engineering. These activities are designed to encourage creativity, support learning related to responsible innovation, and help participants develop 21st century skills.


Programming for diverse audiences

Frankenstein200 resources can be incorporated into programming for a variety of audiences, including families and young adults. For example, The Bakken Museum in Minneapolis and the Science Museum of Minnesota in Saint Paul, Minnesota celebrated Frankenstein’s 200th anniversary with programming for family audiences, and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, Texas incorporated the kit activities into Social Science, an adults-only event featuring experiments, demonstrations, talks by local scientists, art and maker experiences, and adult beverages.

Frankenstein adventure guides

In events across the United States, the research team saw some really effective ways to use the Frankenstein adventure guides (passports) that are included in the Frankenstein200 kits. At Pennypickle’s Workshop in Temecula, California, the guides informed guests about all the activities that were available and motivated them to complete them in order to collect all the stamps in their guides.


Frankenstein-themed outfits

Museum staff members and volunteers can promote their events in a colorful and appealing way by wearing lab coats and Frankenstein costumes. We saw lots of great examples of this! For example, staff at SciPort Discovery Center in Shreveport, Louisiana wore L.I.F.E.-branded lab coats and adorned themselves with stitches, while staff at the Discovery Children's Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada outdid themselves by dressing up as Mary Shelley and the creature!

Encouraging persistence

One of the things we loved most was watching kids overcome obstacles while completing the activities. For example, at the Don Harrington Discovery Center in Amarillo, Texas and ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum in Ashland, Oregon, facilitators encouraged kids to be innovators and problem-solvers when they were working on their projects. In this way, participants were able to learn new things about science and engineering. It was also great to see kids helping their peers, which can boost feelings of self-efficacy.

Asking deep questions

Facilitators can help guests gain a more complex understanding of science concepts and their social and ethical dimensions by posing questions and dilemmas about Frankenstein and hands-on activities. At the McWane Science Center in Birmingham, Alabama, facilitators asked really good questions to kids while they were working on their projects. The reflection questions included in the activity guides are a good starting point, but many other valuable and thought-provoking questions will arise organically out of your interactions with guests.


Involving caregivers in the process

We saw lots of nice examples of facilitators using language that appealed simultaneously to kids and their caregivers. The facilitators at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, Texas and the Palouse Discovery Science Center in Pullman, Washington did a great job of interacting with caregivers and encouraging them to try out the activities and learn and explore alongside children.

Take-home creations

Some sites extended the learning from the event by allowing guests to take home their creations. At the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix and the Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee, kids performed a “toothbrush-ectomy” and then took home their Scribble Bots so they could continue perfecting their creations and thinking about the social and ethical questions raised by the project.


Promoting the Frankenstein200 game

The Frankenstein200 alternate reality game is another great way for families to extend their museum experience! Many partners displayed information about the game at their museum events. For example, McWane Science Center in Birmingham, Alabama registered people for the game on iPads, ran the trailer video on a loop in a high-traffic area, and passed out promotional postcards.

Getting involved

There’s still plenty of time to help celebrate Frankenstein’s birthday! Your organization can participate by downloading a free digital activity kit. The Frankenstein200 kit includes seven hands on activities, including five maker-style activities such as automata and scribble bots, and two activities that explore the science of Mary Shelley’s time. The digital kit includes all the files and instructions you need to assemble your own activity materials, and also provides information on other project elements.

The kit activities are a great fit for summer camp programming and, of course, Halloween-themed fall programs! For inspiration, read how the Sciencenter in Ithaca, New York has already tried out the activities in their annual Spooky Science event!