Silly Science goes remote

OH WOW! distributing kits to make at-home festival experience

Staff photo / Andy Gray Volunteer Celina Santiago, 17, of Youngstown fills bags with hands-on projects and worksheets that will be distributed to area children as OH WOW! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children's Center for Science & Technology turns its annual Silly Science Sunday street festival into a do-at-home event.

YOUNGSTOWN — An institution with science in its name isn’t going to defy scientific recommendations by bringing thousands of children together outside of OH WOW! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology.

In place of its annual Silly Science Sunday, which would have been held Sept. 20 on West Federal Street, OH WOW! has created an at-home event where families can pick up activity packs filled with science-and-arts-related projects to do together.

About 4,000 kits will be distributed starting Monday at locations in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties in Ohio, and Lawrence and Mercer counties in western Pennsylvania. Families can register for kits online at ohwowkids.org.

“Each bag has two hands-on activities and a minimum of two worksheet, coloring-book-type activities,” Suzanne Barbati, OH WOW! president and executive director said.

Silly Science Sunday traditionally closes down West Federal Street for a street fair where different organizations offer hands-on, science-inspired projects for children to enjoy. That face-to-face interaction will be lost this year due to COVID-19, Barbati said, but the event was retooled to preserve the rest of its elements.

“What we and our partners want to offer is a fun activity for families to do together and have control over,” she said. “So much of what’s going on, and this applies to people in my own family, they’re depressed because of it, because they have no control. This provides some control. We’re still sharing resources, still providing a service to the community. And our sponsors have enabled us to do that for free.”

The at-home event came together quickly. An email was sent to businesses, non-profit organizations and arts institutions on Aug. 13 asking for projects and supplies for the take-home kits, and the deadline for delivery was Sept. 4.

“They had under four weeks to get everything together,” Barbati said. “We had more (donations) than we ever anticipated.”

Silly Science Sunday home edition has nine sponsors and nearly 30 partners.

At a time when many students are doing at least some of their schooling at home and parents are taking a more active role in their children’s educations, Barbati said she believes the mission of Silly Science Sunday is more important then ever.

“So many of us are promoting that you have what you need in your own home to do science every day,” she said. “It’s not a 45-minute class once a week for one semester. We’re talking about learning how to experiment, learning how to make observations, learning how to make conclusions from those observations and changing the activity because of it.

“That’s a crucial life skill and many of us don’t have that. Many of us see something, but don’t draw any conclusions from what we see. We don’t see that little red light going off in our head. We don’t modify anything, we don’t change anything, and then we get into trouble. That’s a very big deal for us and a very big deal for all of our partners.”

Some details still are being worked out for the event, and Barbati said the board will meet this week to finalize plans.

“We needed to get all of the materials into the community. We’re still deciding what we’re going to do on the 20th. Are we going to do Facebook live events? Are we going to encourage families to do videos, show us their epic successes and epic failures?”


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