by Neil Pifer
Greensboro Science Center
Martha Regester is the VP of Education at the Greensboro Science Center in Downtown Greensboro, NC. The Greensboro Science Center (GSC) offers limited public hours and a buffet of virtual options for your students and families. GSC has an aquarium, museum and zoo for families and teachers to learn from and enjoy. We encourage everyone in the Greater Greensboro Area to check them out, as there are so few options for field trips during the pandemic.
N: What has the Greensboro Science Center done during the pandemic?
M: In March and going forward, we produced virtual lessons and had daily video lessons on our YouTube channel. (An example is here.) We are lucky to have a studio that produces lessons designed to be at home, but we are most excited that we can offer in person camps and classes, with extra cleaning and smaller numbers.
Moving into the winter and spring, GSC is working on providing materials for families to pick up kits for a virtual learning day. Outreach is another area of growth. This allows one of our staff to go to a classroom do a program using the animals or electricity is not the same as bringing the class or grade level to our amazing facility, but it is a way to connect kids to science. We are fortunate at GSC not to have furloughed or laid off any employees, so far.
N: What programs have been most successful this fall?
M: Taking a virtual field trip to our aquarium and using our studio, we have been able to do a “meet the animals” program and it has been popular. By partnering with Guilford County Schools, GSC has been able to meet with the entire district science teachers to market the programs and with this partnership has come some subsidy of the cost for schools that are short on funds during this time.
N: There are some exciting new exhibits at GSC. Can you describe what has changed when the bulk of school groups return?
M: If you haven’t been to the center since March, our public will be surprised and pleased about all the updates that have happened while they were away. Revolution Ridge is an expansion that is doubling the footprint of our Zoo. Kookaburra and Cassowary birds, Okapis, 3 different species of wild cats and pigmy hippos will be highlights in this new section of the Zoo. Another exciting part about this expansion is that we will allow the public to view the Vet Center and Commissary, to see how we take care of and feed our animals. The public will even be able to see animal surgery, if it is needed! We love to blend our conservation message with the science of animals.
Another exciting upgrade opening in the Spring of 2021 is our treetop adventure, in which younger elementary students can safely explore the treetops. Half of this new exhibit is universally accessible, which encourages kids of all abilities to explore the treetops in the woods. Built by Beanstalk Builders, there are 6 platforms with various ways to enter the forest. Because we are a science center, we are also installing dinosaurs underneath this exhibit!
Because these projects were funded before the pandemic, we were able to continue this work. One project that had to be put on hold for a time was a planned butterfly and pollinator exhibit. We hope to pick that project back up very soon.
N: That is an impressive list of additions and upgrades, who are the partners that made that possible?
M: The NC Zoo in Asheboro, the largest acreage Zoo in the world, has been invaluable resource in adding animals from all over the world. Being the Greensboro Science Center, we are a Zoo, a museum with exhibit, a planetarium and an education facility. We have such a diverse space and sometimes teachers don’t know that we can connect all these spaces to their classroom!
N: What are some other ways to connect science teachers to field experiences and your center to the classroom?
M: Because the virtual programming is so tailored to small groups and usually just one teacher requests the program, we can change the program to meet the needs of a particular classroom. We enjoy the fact that during this pandemic, we have skipped planning large group field trips with field trip coordinators and now are planning with individual teachers. That will continue well after the pandemic. I want teachers and teacher leaders to feel empowered that we are here to support their instruction and please speak up when a program needs to change to meet the needs of their diverse learners. You are the education experts and we are here to help inspire your students.
N: Thank you so much for your time today and I hope all of our 2021 is better than 2020.
The Greensboro Science Center is located at 4301 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro, NC 27455 and you can use their website or call them if you would like to schedule an in-person experience, outreach or a virtual program anywhere in North Carolina.