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Front Lines: Mobius steps up with science activities, offering students something extra during school closures

UPDATED: Mon., April 27, 2020

Jake Milliron of Mobius Science Center put together activity kits for kids K-8 grade that they will pick up with the bagged lunches fom area schools. He talked about being able to reach out during the COVID-19 pandemic Tuesday in Spokane. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Jake Milliron of Mobius Science Center put together activity kits for kids K-8 grade that they will pick up with the bagged lunches fom area schools. He talked about being able to reach out during the COVID-19 pandemic Tuesday in Spokane. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

When the coronavirus caused all of Jake Milliron’s classroom visits to be canceled, the Mobius outreach education manager decided to create STEM activity kits for kids to explore at home.

Milliron was a middle school math teacher for five years before becoming the outreach education manager at Mobius Science Center.

“I really fell in love with the informal education aspect,” he said. “I always liked integrating STEM into my math lessons. Kids who say ‘I’m never going to use this’ is a motivating thing for most math teachers, I think.”

Under normal circumstances, Milliron works with local schools and teachers to create hands-on STEM lessons that add to the teacher’s curriculum.

Earlier this week, he was supposed to be at Progress Elementary with a class of second-graders doing a volcano activity.

The Mobius visits also “bring in materials that teachers don’t already have access to,” he said.

Milliron’s work fulfills two grants, one for North Idaho and another from the state of Washington, to support underrepresented students and increase their access to STEM education.

With schools across the country moving to distance learning, Milliron decided Spokane and North Idaho kids shouldn’t miss out on a hands-on learning experience. He turned existing lesson plans, like dissecting owl pellets to learn biology, into home activity kits that can be facilitated by family members.

“I think through this process I’ve really realized that half of the adults in our country got pushed into being informal educators,” Milliron said. “It’s something I’ve always been passionate about but now I’m realizing everyone is kind of doing it some from home.”

Milliron is creating the kits and lesson plans from home while taking care of a toddler and his 7-month-old.

The first round of kits were dropped off Friday at schools that already had scheduled Mobius visits.

Nearly all of the 200 kits were gone by Monday afternoon.

“Guess we’ll be working pretty hard to keep up with demand,” Milliron said.

The initial kits were made with supplies that Mobius had already ordered for Milliron’s classroom visits, but now he plans to adapt other activities for kids to do at home.

“Kids love engineering design challenges,” he said, so he plans to adapt a few of those along with maybe an Earth Day kit, chemistry kit, and a planetarium kit.

The kits will be available at grant-qualifying schools alongside meal distribution.

While not every school qualifies for the kits, Mobius has been posting activity videos on their social media for children and families to follow along. The videos can be found @mobiusscience and @mobiuskids on social media.

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