The Science of Pivoting During a Pandemic

By Laura Schmidl, Director of Education and Elizabeth Kurila, Director of Development, Discovery Cube Orange County

February 09, 2021

Discovery Cube Orange County (the Cube) was established in 1989 with a mission to inspire and educate young minds through engaging science-based programs and exhibits in order to create a meaningful impact on our communities. The Cube offers children and families access to participatory science-based learning experiences on site, in the classroom, and now at home, reflecting the geography, opportunities, challenges, and diverse populations of Southern California.

Our Makerspace Water Challenge program was made possible by a generous grant we received through the Infosys Foundation USA’s Infy Maker Awards. We are thrilled to share how the program was developed and pivoted after the science center closed on March 16th due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We look forward to engaging children at the Water Lab’s Microscope Exhibit when the Cube re-opens in 2021.

Our Maker Experience
The Makerspace Water Challenge was developed from a committee of internal staff representing key departments with a question, “How can we turn our existing Water Lab into a maker experience? After 15 years of working with key community partners to deliver Water Engagement Programs through student assemblies and workshops, the team concluded the addition of a customized microscope exhibit would 1. Activate the existing space with an interactive hands-on science activity and 2. Offer an opportunity to SHOW the students, with their own eyes, that water can be cleaned, both naturally by the Earth using plants, rocks, and soil, as well as by humans through the wonders of science, engineering, and tinkering.

The Big Pivot
On March 16, 2020 Discovery Cube responded early to the COVID-19 pandemic and closed its doors to secure the safety and wellbeing of our guests and staff. With students throughout California continuing the upcoming school year at home, there was a need for high quality, easy-to-use, at-home STEM activities, videos and resources for every child.

The Science of Pivoting During a Pandemic

The Cube quickly shifted gears, in a matter of a few short months, pivoting from an in-person hands-on science center to a virtual hands-on science platform with the creation of Discovery Cube Connect (DCC). A digital extension to Discovery Cube’s family of science centers, DCC connects the community to the best hands-on STEM resources on the web for free and provides users with content that contains the same characteristics that have always been important to the Cube: Hands-on, Fun & Engaging, Educational, and Easy-to-use. All activities are tied to grade-specific Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and support science learning at home through a variety of STEM content, activities, challenges, and adventures for Grades K-5. The nine subject areas include: Space Science, Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, Life Science, Marine Science, Technology, Earth and Environment and STEM Entertainment.

Preparing Students for Our Maker Experience
Science Adventures are a series of unique and fun challenges, within DCC, that offers children an opportunity to explore the world around them from the safety of their home and outdoor spaces. Backyard Science Adventure, our first science adventure series, has activities that support observation, experimentation, investigation, and discovery of the world outside their back (or front!) door. Children advance through the challenges, earning a badge and achieving expert status! One of these challenges, Pet Power, includes an activity where children experiment with different materials to make and test their own water filter. Along the way, they learn that every animal has to drink water, so it’s important to make sure that water is clean to keep your pet (and you!) healthy and safe.

The Science of Pivoting During a Pandemic

Splish Splash: Make Your Own Water Filter
An example of the many at home or school activities available on DCC. Future Adventures will include Science Sustainability of which three of four adventures will be water themed. Tentative titles include: H20 Now You Know, Go with the Flow, and Water Wise.

The Science of Pivoting During a Pandemic