“COSI-fy.” It’s a verb frequently used by Stephen White, vice president of external affairs, strategic initiatives, and business development at COSI. It’s also one that has become incredibly important as students, teachers, and parents adjust to learning and working remotely.
White also teaches at the Ohio State University law school and felt the effects of working and teaching from home firsthand.
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“When you’re learning from at home, you want to be able to feed the attention, these hungry minds that we have right now and provide them with experiences that they will not only do themselves but perhaps even do together with their families,” White said.
When the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools in March, COSI took action to “COSI-fy” the at-home learning experience. So, in April, the museum introduced COSI Connects, its digital doorway for learning at home.
COSI Connects–accessible through the COSI app–provides Columbus residents with engaging video demonstrations, hands-on instruction, and activities aimed at both individual and family learning.
When it was announced last week that Columbus City Schools would start the school year with all-virtual learning, many parents grew alarmed about the mental strain another semester of remote learning could have on their kids.
“COSI plays a unique role in being able to provide hands-on engaging STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] content that is also tied to Ohio learning standards but does it in a fun way,” White said.
And STEM is a language that White knows well.
“STEM is important because it’s science and science is important now more than ever, and when you look at education equity, we believe that education is the great equalizer,” White added.
The most recent addition to COSI Connects, Teachback, was integrated into the COSI digital library in June to ensure that students are staying on track with their online studies. Teachback is a way for students to complete a multitude of STEM activities, and, after becoming an Einstein on the subject, teaching what they learned back to their parents.
One of the more important staples of the Teachback program–made possible through a partnership with Nationwide and Can’t Stop Columbus–is making sure that kids are asking their parents for feedback so they can improve on their teaching skills for the next lesson. Can’t Stop Columbus was pivotal in getting Teachback off the ground by helping with the integration of Teachback into the COSI mobile app.
“The education crisis came upon us quickly and impacted everyone across the board,” said Andy Tanyatanaboon, project lead at Can’t Stop Columbus. “I believe the diverse collaboration allowed us to deliver something that is both fun to use and helpful in lowering the anxiety that parents have about the distance learning situation.
Even Columbus-area teachers have a way of amplifying their lessons with COSI content through Teachback.
“That way those teachers and parents know, ‘Wow, my kid not only has fun doing science, but they learned it and they taught it back’,” White said.
The Teachback program consists of lessons for different age groups ranging from physics projects to unique science content centered on nature. The activities are geared around using tools that are accessible around the home, and students are highly encouraged to share their finished lessons through the COSI app or social media.
However, one thing that COVID-19 made glaringly obvious for the first time is that not all homes have access to Wi-Fi.
“We recognize that the digital desert exists, and we want to provide the opportunity to provide resources to our community to overcome that digital divide,” White said.
A few things that COSI has been doing to bridge the divide is allowing the public to download lessons and activities when connected to Wi-Fi hotspots to save for offline learning at a later time. COSI also recently announced the COSI on Wheels: Curbside experience, a partnership with COTA to enable students the opportunity to link up with more COSI Connects fun via COTA Wi-Fi hot spots. For more on COSI bridging the digital divide, read the press release here.
COSI, through another partnership with COTA and the Columbus City Schools, will also provide hotspots at various Columbus City Schools as part of the grab-and-go lunch program. It has been providing students with Learning Lunchboxes as part of its partnership with the Children’s Hunger Alliance since July.
COSI would also like to thank the City of Columbus and Franklin County for their ongoing partnership.