A Bay Area Discovery Museum facilitator builds a bridge during a recent online education session. The Sausalito-based learning facility has transitioned a majority of its programming online. (Photo courtesy of Bay Area Discovery Museum)

The Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito is known for giving kids opportunities to learn about the world through play and exploration. But like most locations where people gather, the museum has had limited availability during the pandemic. Its staff has needed to adjust to continue to bring programming to kids. 

We caught up with BADM Marketing Manager Rachel Hunt to learn more about the museum’s journey during COVID and what they are working on now.   

Your museum is all about discovery and learning. What are some of the lessons your team has learned in 2020?

Flexibility and teamwork have been the theme of 2020! Even prior to 2020, we were and are dedicated to offering safe, engaging, high-quality learning experiences. While new health recommendations limit experiences in person, we expanded our winter programs so that they can be done virtually. 

What changes did you have to make to programming?  

Moving early learning opportunities to a virtual space was an exciting move! We aren’t new to facilitating online events — our School and Community Programs team has been facilitating virtual programs with schools since the start of the school year, and we have published Bringing BADM to You activities multiple times a month since March. 

What kinds of questions have kids asked about COVID-19? How do you respond?

Our onsite preschool, The Discovery School (TDS), has plenty of first-hand experience with this! 

With increased hand-washing, germs are a frequent topic of discussion among TDS students. The children asked, “What are germs?” Our TDS teachers responded by reading a book written by Nicola Davies called “Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes.” This sparked the children’s interest in playing a game of tag but they used the terms “good microbes” and “bad microbes” to describe the runners and taggers. Finding opportunities to learn through play is a constant at BADM.  

Another example: At the beginning of this school year, the children were asking about why they needed to wear masks. TDS teachers recognized an interest in superheroes and superpowers and responded to their mask question by talking with the children about how our masks are like our superhero shields — they help protect us and our friends. 

I noticed you are offering virtual programs to schools. What are the sessions like?

We took our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) Workshops for schools and made them virtual. This brings BADM flair to local classrooms with fun, hands-on virtual workshops that challenge students to solve real-world issues related to their environments and their communities.

With our virtual programs, sometimes we start with a material scavenger hunt before we do a project. We provide teachers a video and pdf, and they send those to the kids so they can gather all the materials they will need for the project. Kids are logging into Zoom, and they go into smaller breakout rooms to work in groups. One recent project was to have the kids build a bridge. The BADM facilitator built a bridge on his side, and the kids built their own bridge. The goal is to think about what a bridge is, how it connects people, and the trial and error you go through as you experiment with different materials. 

These programs are designed for pre-kindergarten through third grade. They are considered Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS)-aligned workshops and we design them to support educators with content that aligns with their curriculum.

Any tips for museum-goers in 2021?

Once we re-open, we will be rolling out four brand new exhibits. A general tip is to remember that safety restrictions are evolving, so do your research ahead of time. Check the museum’s website and be ready for small changes ahead of your visit because, as we know, protocols can change. 

For more virtual programs, visit here.