Partner Highlight: Children’s Museum of Eau Claire's "Science Troupe" Visits SMM!

Christina Leavell

At the end of summer 2016, our friends at the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire dropped by the Science Museum of Minnesota for a behind-the-scenes look around the museum. With them they brought the "Eau Claire Science Troupe" summer camp participants – an elite group of middle school students who had been working hard that past week with materials from the NISE Network's "Explore Science: Zoom into Nano" kit.

The field trip was the capstone to a weeklong summer camp done as part of the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire’s Museum and Community Partnership (MCP) project with the NISE Network. The Children’s Museum of Eau Claire partnered with the Eau Claire YMCA to create this summer camp opportunity for underserved youth in the area. The goal was make this camp accessible to anyone by offering it at a reduced rate, and sometimes at no cost at all. They targeted local middle school students, and collected a fairly even mix of males and females. Anther goal was to empower the group through leadership as they learned the science, how to play and facilitate the Explore Science activities.

Jacqueline Van Hemert, Director of Programs and Events at the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire, talked about the Science Troupe’s work that week: 

Science Troupers spent their first four days of camp learning more about child development from the Museum’s play-ologists and then exploring each letter of the STEM acronym in greater depth. The group visited the local library’s computer lab to delve into coding, mathematics and game design, spent some time with the Museum’s 3D printers as they learned about engineering, and devoted several hours to exploring and practicing the Explore Science kit contents in preparation for facilitating the experiments live on the Museum floor. This was probably the most eye-opening part of the week for many of our troupers. Several made comments about how challenging it is to be an educator of young children, especially when they don’t have very long attention spans!

Of course, there were plenty of team-building activities thrown in for good measure, illustrating the fact that alone you can go fast, but together you can go far. The trip to the Science Museum of Minnesota was a special reward for a week’s worth of hard work!

For their tour of SMM, the students got VIP status! They visited with some of the SMM staff that led design, development, and production of the Explore Science kit. They heard about the process of bringing together so many educational resources, and what it meant to do this for so many different educators nation wide. They peeked into SMM’s full working shop, where these and other materials for activities and exhibitions get fabricated. Students even had the chance to see some white models of upcoming museum work and talk with exhibit developers about the process of creating an experience that is scientifically accurate and also includes an engaging narrative.

After this, the group ventured into the SMM Collections Vault. Here the museum keeps its 1.75-million-object collection. Students spoke with staff and volunteers about a number of these objects, as well as the current research projects going on around some items within the collection. A standout among the group was a metatarsal of a T-Rex, measuring longer than many of the student’s arms!

Finally, the students hit the museum floor to see one of the museum’s latest Science Live Theater shows, "Storming the castle," which focuses on the topic of Synthetic Biology. Post show, they were escorted backstage to SMM’s large auditorium theater and the greenroom where real Twin Cities actors prepare for shows. They were able to discuss the workings of the theater, and the tremendous amount of scientific research that goes into each show to ensure accuracy to subject matter.

All in all, the students seemed to have an absolute blast, and it was a tremendous amount of fun for SMM to have the chance to host this great group!

For a closer look at this great group's work, check out the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire's Facebook photo album:

Also, see the attachment below for information about this camp, their "Mad Nano Scientists" camp, and the many other camp opportunities offered by the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire!


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