Virtual Science Workshops for Kids
Science Box, founded and run by Shalini Guleria and her eager team of volunteers, is a social enterprise aimed at teaching children the fun of science through the use of basic household items. Initially, Science Box workshops were taught in schools and public library sessions, but due to changing times the team has decided to shift their workshops to weekly online learning sessions. With the first workshop being hosted this coming weekend (Saturday 16th May 2020), we spoke to Shalini to get some more details on Science Box and their Virtual Weekend Workshops.
Tell us about Science Box, what was your ‘Y’ for starting it?
I have always been passionate about science from a very young age but when I grew up, I noticed there weren’t many young children executing the same passion. Being a tutor for young kids, I got the chance to see why a large majority of them were moving away from science. I found that kids have developed stereotypes when it comes to science, such as: “science can only be learnt in a lab”, “it is a hard subject and you need to be smart to learn it” or “scientists are only men in the lab doing big experiments”. After listening to all of this, I was quite shocked and wanted to change this mindset amongst the younger generation. This is what led to the birth of Science Box!
I quite literally went to Kmart and bought a box, which I then filled up with household items that can be used for a range of experiments. I didn’t want to portray science as a form of entertainment or a magic show, so I developed a program where kids were asked to solve science challenges, come up with their scientific theories and present these to the rest of the class. All in all, through Science Box, I want to encourage curiosity in young kids and show them that science is all around us - we just need the right perspective to see it.
One of the stereotypes that you mentioned above is that “scientists are only men in the lab doing big experiments”. How does Science Box combat this stereotype?
At its core, Science Box shows that science is for everyone! I am a female and I am a scientist, more than half of our Science Box volunteers are women. So, when we go into a classroom and run a workshop, the children are able to see first-hand that science is not just a male vocation.
It is not only beneficial for young girls to see this and to look up to the female volunteers as role-models but it is also especially important for the young boys to acknowledge that women can be scientists too.
Once there is an understanding that science is not gender-specific, stereotypes such as this one can be broken.
What has the response been like to Science Box so far?
Science Box is still quite young in its journey but the response we have received has been overwhelming. So far, we have been able to take our workshops to over 2000 kids throughout New Zealand, as well as launching new initiatives like the Science Box club. We have received so much support from the community to take Science Box further.
Recently, Science Box was launched in Bangladesh - due to our collaboration with an organisation called WizKit and we are currently in conversation with another organisation in Kenya. The success of Science Box could not be possible without the amazing team of volunteers that help to lead the workshops and generate new ideas - we have been very lucky in that area.
Have you faced any challenges along the way? If so, how did you manage them?
It is always challenging to start up any initiative, especially when it comes to funding it. When I started Science Box, the goal was to make it low cost, so it was affordable. To get Science Box up and running initially, I had to fund it myself and then applied for grants to support it. Also, with some help with people who understood business, I worked out a self-sustaining business model so I didn’t have to rely on grant money.
Another personal challenge that I faced was managing Science Box successfully alongside my work and study. The way that I handled this challenge was by implementing some effective time management skills, which I had to stick to really closely. This allowed me to balance all of my commitments, while still making sure I had downtime as well.
What will the Science Box ‘Virtual Weekend Workshops’ consist of?
The Science Box Virtual Weekend Workshops are a live, interactive platform for children to engage in. Each session will run for a duration of 40 minutes and will consist of myself, or another Science Box volunteer, hosting a range of experiments with basic household items. The children will be able to interact with the host and other kids to share their ideas and figure out the science behind each challenge. Starting times for the workshops may vary but these will be posted up during the week, prior to each workshop.
How can parents access these workshops for their children?
Parents can access the workshops via a Zoom link that will be shared on the Science Box website, Facebook page and Instagram page prior to each workshop (links below). A list of items that we will be using for each workshop will also be posted across these platforms beforehand, so that parents have time to get any items that they may not already have. Most items should already be able to be found in the home though – to make it nice and easy.
What is your overall aim for these workshops?
Science Box has always been about keeping kids engaged in science by allowing them to think critically and problem solve. During these times, when we can’t physically host workshops in large groups, the aim of these online workshops is to continue to bring the fun of science to children in a way that is still interactive and engaging. We do not want to let the current restrictions get in the way of showing kids that science is for everyone!
Link to first Science Box Virtual Weekend Workshop here:
Science Box Platforms:
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/scienceboxnz
Instagram Page: www.instagram.com/sciencebox_nz