OMSI closed its doors to the public in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 14. Like most other organizations in Portland, we are working to navigate the mind-boggling situation in which we all find ourselves. Given the circumstances, we are working as hard as we can to support our community as best we can.
We have an amazing staff working to evolve our program delivery over the past few weeks, but our mission to ‘inspire curiosity through engaging science learning experiences…’ remains unchanged. And that’s exactly what we intend to continue to do.
Just because our guests can’t come to the museum right now doesn’t mean we can’t fulfill this mission. Listed out below are a few things we wanted to make sure you were aware of, in the hopes we can support you and your organization during this time.
Digital Science Education
Our doors are closed, but that doesn’t mean the learning has to stop. Our educators pivoted quickly to figure out how to continue to deliver fun, educational content in the midst of this crisis. We have been adding to our new Stay Home, Stay Curious digital content page regularly. Each of the educational videos and activities on the page are also shared via social media. Our hope with this content is to delight, engage, and entertain scientists of all ages—wherever they are.
We have been working with our Oregon Homeschool students to offer the educational programming they need in order to finish out the school year. Our educators have created pre-recorded videos and lesson plans that go along with it. OMSI staff is testing different ways of delivering and sharing this programming to determine the best model (or models) OMSI can use going forward with some of our other valued community partners like KairosPDX and Mt. Hood Community College Head Start.
This optimized model of delivery is something that can continue for years to come. It could also be adapted for pre/post materials for future school field trips, giving those visiting students a deeper level of engagement with science.
In mid-April we offered our first live-streamed assembly program, and it went incredibly well. We are excited to offer this moving forward. With all the great science-based content that OMSI has to offer, this style of live programming will open up so much more to rural schools across Oregon and beyond. There’s still a large need for educators to physically be in classrooms, and this is a positive and effective alternative for schools and communities.
A little over a month ago, when the COVID-19 situation was changing on a daily basis, Multnomah County had a critical need for essential workers to have a dependable childcare option. OMSI moved quickly to gain State approval to offer emergency childcare and—working within the newly-released guidelines—identified spaces in the museum where we could safely lead classes for up to 10 children.
This is a true example of how the community can come together to address a need quickly, and the close partnership with Multnomah County is part of the reason for this program’s success. The County has a number of resources for janitorial and disinfectant supplies, and they have donated a crew of facilities staff to work at OMSI, disinfecting all surfaces during the day and conducting deep cleaning in the evening.
This childcare was initially offered to Multnomah County and healthcare essential workers, and has since been extended to the City of Portland and TriMet employees. Several spots remain, and we encourage essential workers in need to reach out to OMSI.
OMSI’s daily programming is much more than childcare. We offer students LEGO WeDo programming, coding, interactions with reptiles, yoga, field trips to the Turbine Hall (socially distanced, of course), time for school and distance learning, and more! We are even testing some exciting new summer curriculum programs, which have been well-received by the students.
Virtual Science Pubs/Online Events
OMSI has been hosting Science Pub for more than 14 years, offering our communities a place to come together, grab a drink, and explore current science topics with an expert. Due to the need to maintain safe social distancing, this popular event has gone virtual. Using Facebook Live to steam the series, we are hosting weekly science lectures that appeal to all. The varied topics in this virtual series have ranged from geology and physics to climate change and viruses.
“The new virtual OMSI Science Pubs have been really well received by the community and are performing far beyond our expectations. We’ve already had over 50k video views and are thrilled with the popularity of the new virtual series,” said Melony Beaird, OMSI events manager.
These events wouldn’t be possible without the help of two dedicated local partners who stepped up to help us make it happen. Selestream, a long-time OMSI partner, is donating their time and services to live stream the events and Fingers Crossed Interpreting is providing two ASL interpreters for each event.
We are also encouraging guests to put the “pub” back in Science Pub by ordering food and drink from their local breweries and restaurants to support them during this challenging time.
Our Mission Continues
OMSI’s mission to inspire curiosity and support informed action is more relevant today than ever before. In this time of uncertainty, we are positive that we can come together and reaffirm our longstanding commitment to science education, informed action, and curious learners all across the region. OMSI remains an independent nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that receives no state or local tax funding—support from individuals, corporations, and foundations makes our work possible.
We appreciate our partnership with community members like you and the days ahead when we can resume normal operations. Though the museum is currently closed to the public, administrative staff and customer service are accessible by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and phone (503.797.4000). For more information please visit www.omsi.edu. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.