ASPAC Blog Train Day 4: A Day of MindMoving by Pecier Decierdo and Art Galapon


   
The following entry is part of a collaborative blog project among different science centers that participated in the ASPAC (Asia Pacific Network of Science and Technology Centres) Conference this April 2015. Each entry will illustrate the life of a science communicator in his or her respective museum, and highlight their unique and inspiring experiences.

A Day of Mind Moving by Pecier Decierdo

My alarm sounds off. Looking out the window, I see weather that encourages me to stay in bed for a few hours more. Shifting my gaze to my calendar, I see that today is not going to be one of those lazy days in the museum. With a mixture of nervousness and excitement, I get ready for work.

After passing through that gauntlet that is Manila traffic, I arrive at the museum 45 minutes before opening time. Considering that I have a science show to host as soon as the museum opens, I have not arrived early.

The show I will be hosting is called Fun Physics. As the name demands, I try to make it fun. I will also try to interpret the 'physics' part in its broadest sense possible. A demo on chemical reactions that involves color changes? Well, color is a physical phenomenon, right? And what about the energy exchanges and collisions between the particles of the chemical reactants? After all, fundamentally, isn't chemistry just the branch of physics that specializes on how atoms interact with each other?

I ask these questions trying to convince myself that the demo "Stan's toothpaste" (what other science demo people call "elephant's toothpaste", but which we in The Mind Museum have named after our resident T. rex Stan) will fit in my show. After all, I'm guessing the close to 30 out-of-school youths (OSYs) I will be doing the show for have not yet been indoctrinated with the usual division of science into "fields". If I can do a show that will convince them not only that science can be fun but also that the natural world makes no distinction between "physics", "chemistry" and "biology", then I will have considered my job well done.


I spend around 30 minutes looking around our laboratory gathering up the materials. Today, I will do a variation of Fun Physics that focuses on energy transformations. It's one of my favorites. Energy can be thought of as abstract and mathematical, an accounting tool for balancing the cosmic books. But we also experience energy in our daily lives. In fact, our daily lives revolve around our uses of energy. We eat, rest, charge our devices and then use those devices' stored energy, turn on the lights, ride vehicles that use up fuel, and so on. 

All these require the transformation of energy from one form to another. And so energy it is! I pick up the glassware I'm going to use to demonstrate exothermic and endothermic reactions. I grab the radiometer as well as the halogen lamp that will produce the light that makes the radiometer spin. I pick up marbles, and ramps, and an assortment of stuff I can use to show transformations of energy. They're literally all over the place. I move the materials from the lab to the auditorium where I'm going to do my show. 

10 minutes remaining. I look at all the materials arranged on the long table at the stage. I rehearse the sequence of demos in my mind. I do a sound check with the sound system. 

5 minutes remaining. I look at the empty seats in the auditorium and imagine them occupied by curious kids and I get a little nervous. I've done this many times before, but each group of kids is different, and performing to every one of them is a great responsibility. I can't just tell them that science is cool. That's weak and unconvincing. I must show them that science is cool. Better yet, I must embody the coolness of science.

2 minutes remaining. I take a deep breath, slowly exhale, and then internalize my character. Beyond this show, I am some guy. Within the show, I am not just Pecier. I am MindMover Pecier. The kids start to come in the auditorium. It's show time.




Whenever I do a show, I feel like everything is in slow motion. But the moment the show ends, I feel like the whole 30-minute show happened within just a few minutes. After the applause has died down, I thank the kids for being game in participating. I ask everyone, and especially those who were not able to directly participate earlier, to come up to the stage and try out some of the stuff their volunteer friends did. These 5 to 10 minutes of unstructured play with the kids is one of my favorite parts of a demo.


It is during these moments that kids ask me their questions. It is also during these moments that they try to perform actual experiments with the materials by seeing what will happen if they change some variable in the demonstration. The barrier between performer and audience vanishes, and they realize that as far as the theater of nature is concerned, they can be both curious performer and enthralled audience at the same time.

The kids thank me heartily. Some even hug me. These out-of-school kids were brought to the museum thanks to a partnership between a corporate sponsor, the museum, and an NGO that aims to get these kids back in school. I hope that the impression on science I made will stay with them for as long as the warm fuzzy feeling they gave will stay with me. I also hope that when they get back in school, they won't think of science as a dull subject, but as a powerful way of seeing and appreciating the world.

While the kids continue their visit of the museum by touring the galleries, I start cleaning up. To be honest, it's my least favorite part, but it obviously has to be done, and the memories of the kids' reactions to the demo make the cleaning up a little bit less of a chore.

After the clean up, I take a rest by surfing the net. Within half an hour, I have more than a dozen tabs open on my browser. There's the multiple tabs for the office email, more than a couple of tabs for social networking, and about half a dozen on online articles on science news and other interesting reading. Before I know it, it's already lunchtime.

With too many people in the dining area and in restaurants around the museum, I don't like eating lunch during 12 noon to 1 PM. Instead, I use this time to catch up on important work that needs to be done, like writing exhibit content profiles for new exhibitions, researching on more activities for the kids enrolled to the Junior Mind Mover program, replying to RSVPs on the Cafe Scientifique session of the next week, scheduling the program for next month's Science Wonder Workshop with high school science teachers, or searching for interesting science news to post on the museum's social media accounts. Before I know it, it's already 2 PM. Lunchtime!

When I get back to the museum at 3 PM, I take the time to catch up on my reading. By 3:30, I go back to the lab to prepare for my scheduled science demonstrations. A MindMover performs these demos several times a day in the designated demo area in the museum's Atom Gallery. Sometimes, I feel like doing demos whose spiels, jokes included, I can recite in my sleep. Sometimes, I feel like doing something way outside of my comfort zone. I often decide which path to take less than an hour before the scheduled demo. This day, I decided to perform one of my tried-and-tested demos on optical illusions at 4 PM, and then try to mix it up by performing the less familiar DNA extraction demo at 5 PM.

After I clean up after my 5 PM demo, I go back to the office to relax by surfing the Internet again. Before I know it, it's already 5:45 PM. Most MindMovers are already set to go home. Not me. Tonight's a sidewalk astronomy night. While the others have their bags packed and ready for home, I have the museum's telescope packed and ready for one final show for today. At 7:30 PM, I'm going to set up our 6-inch Newtonian telescope in one of the outdoor malls near The Mind Museum, and ask mall goers and passers by to take a peek at one of our targets for tonight. While giving a mini lecture on what they are seeing through the telescope, I will invite them to visit the museum and tell them about our special programs. From our experience, this kind of marketing is quite effective.



This night is a good night; Jupiter and Venus are in conjunction, the Moon is a beautiful, thin waxing crescent and Saturn will be favorably positioned before 8:30 PM, which is when I make the last call for a viewing. By the time I call it a night, there are still a dozen people requesting if they can take one last glimpse at the cosmic wonder presenting itself through the lens. When they're all done, they thank me warmly for enriching their night with some starry wonder, I pack up, and go home smiling. Not even the infamous Manila traffic can spoil my mood now.




A Day of Mind Moving by Art Galapon


My day starts like many Filipinos do: facing the traffic of the metro. If I'm lucky, I can get to the museum after an hour or so. Otherwise, I could easily end up finishing 3 or more episodes of Neil de Grasse Tyson's podcast. Depending on what time I get to work, I might be able to grab a quick bite for breakfast.

The museum's team is composed of around less than 30 passionate individuals. This includes the education and exhibition teams, operations, and finance department. Our team, the Mind Movers, is in charge of performing science shows, developing and executing educational programs, assisting the exhibitions team for technical contents, and providing the marketing team with materials they can advertise on social media and to the public. Yep, that's a lot of work to juggle for a small group of young science graduates. But it's something that we like, or rather, love doing.

Apart from the regular science shows, we also perform special education programs as requested by school groups or tours. I usually handle Fun Physics Lab, which is a special science show on the different concepts in Physics. The goal is to make students realize that all processes in nature can be explained and influenced by physics.



We perform Newton's Laws of Motion, explain electromagnetism, dazzle them with light experiments, and sometimes even talk about rocket science. I usually perform shows on waves, sounds and light: topics that I'm really interested in. I also developed and conduct the Tinker Tots program which is an introductory tinkering program for children ages 5-9 y/o. It's an exciting program where kids can make their own boats/sailboats and race against each other, or make use of squishy clay circuits, or make animals out of paper. I actually learn more from their creativity and innovative use of materials.





If I'm not doing science shows, I might be out helping another Mind Mover prepare for corporate team building activities, mini science parties, sleepover events, or outdoor camps.

If you work at The Mind Museum, you can't just be a Mind Mover. I volunteered to assist and develop the Volunteer and Internship program of the Museum, at least for the Educational team. It's tough doing all the programs of the Museum as a small group, and we really need help. Luckily, we have interns and volunteers who are just as passionate as the rest of the team. We're still in the process of developing the program. We grab ideas from existing volunteer programs of other science centers and see which works for us.

I'm also in charge of a new program at the Museum: MakerSpace Pilipinas. Just this Sunday (July 26), we held a session for our guests where they could avail of kits and make their own hydrokits/turbines or the ScoPeek, a DIY microscope kit that uses smartphones to capture microscopic images. These kits were developed by the team of AwesomeLab, an experimental research lab composed of a team of engineers, scientists, and designers. Running from 10 AM that day to 4 PM in the afternoon, we sold the kits to a number of guests. One family even enthusiastically bought kits for their four sons. Guests can also avail of memberships for the MakerSpace Club, and a number of kids also became members that day.





The maker movement has been really influential for a lot of people and we'd like to make our own brand of making/tinkering in the Philippines to help popularize a culture of tinkering and innovation. We designed a mobile makerspace which we can deploy anywhere in the museum. If I'm not busy in the makerspace, I usually look for projects that I can do or share to other tinkerers. You'll often see me tinkering random things on my desk, or walking around with a hand drill or dremel. Our office is my workshop - if you hear someone drilling or hammering something - that's probably me.




For the next entry in the ASPAC Blog Train, don't forget to check out the post from one of SciTech's science communicators, Mitchell Crouch.

Mitchell is an outreach presenter with the SciTech Discovery Centre in Perth, Western Australia. He travels all over the 2.5 million km2 that makes up Western Australia, doing science shows and workshops for schools and community groups to increase awareness, interest, capability, and participation in science, technology, engineering, and maths. Mitchell has a Masters in Science Communication Outreach from the Australian National University, lights his hands on fire with astonishing regularity, and is a proud donor of bottle rockets to the roofs of schools across Australia.

The post can be found on July 30th at: http://aspacnet.org/ns/news-events

If you would like to read the previous posts and anticipate the next ones, you can find them at:


17 July - Introductory Post
27 July - Petrosains
29 July - The Mind Museum


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