SCI Blog

At the Science Center of Iowa, our goal is to be a quality community resource for informal science learning where children, families, school groups and individuals of all ages come to explore science and technology.

To continue the learning outside our building, we bring you the SCI blog! Our knowledgeable staff, along with special guests and local scientists, will give you a behind-the-scenes look at SCI activities, in-depth information about science events and STEM connections in the Des Moines area.

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  • Science is Essential: Support SCI with a year-end gift

    Adapting & Innovating Through Change

    As we’ve navigated this year of change and uncertainty, one thing we’ve seen time and time again is that SCIENCE IS ESSENTIAL.

    There's still time to support SCI as we continue inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers, doctors, teachers, astronauts and inventors... the ones who will solve the world’s next big problems.  

    With a focus on our mission, the SCI team has adapted and innovated to provide programs and services during this unprecedented time.

    • Safety First – SCI's plans throughout the pandemic have been rooted in science. A strategic reopening plan focused on the health and safety of staff, volunteers, members and visitors while following the guidance of public health officials and best practices shared by our peers at the Association of Science and Technology Centers. Watch our "Welcome Back" video
    • Virtual Programming – This spring, SCI staff worked quickly to implement “Go Beyond with SCI,” an initiative that provides at-home resources and learning opportunities through virtual platforms and an online library of resources, workshops and presentations.
    • Preschool Classes - The SCI Preschool resumed onsite operations at the end of May with safety protocols to ensure a safe environment for early childhood STEM learning. In-person and virtual classes provide safe and flexible options to support families. 
    • Summer Camps - SCI Summer Camps operated virtually for the first two weeks and moved to in-person camp experiences for the remaining 10 weeks with reduced numbers of campers and new procedures to reduce the spread of germs.  
    • SCI Reopens – In July, SCI reopened to the public on Saturdays and Sundays. Reopening procedures included the requirement of masks and health screenings as well as enhanced safety and sanitation procedures. Over Labor Day weekend, we opened a new traveling exhibit, SUE: The T. rex Experience, bringing a world-class experience to Central Iowa.
    • Resources for Hundreds of Educators – This fall, SCI's Science Learning team delivered more than 400 “Pint Size Science” kits and trainings to educators across the state to support STEM learning in schools and classrooms through the Iowa Governor’s STEM Scale-Up Program. 

    Many Challenges Remain

    With all of these successful adaptations, it’s important to remember that many challenges remain. 

    SCI continues to operate at essential staffing levels. Our hours are still restricted and access to many high-touch exhibits is limited. Programs and events have been cancelled or limited due to resource restrictions. 

    To continue meeting the needs of our community, we need your support now more than ever. 

    Make a year-end contribution

    Ways to Support SCI

    Here are some ways you can support SCI before the end of the year: 

    • Support the mission with a year-end gift. Your contribution will help with essential operational relief and support the ongoing development of science learning programming for the community. Visit sciowa.org/donatenow to make a contribution.
      • Sources to consider – cash, donor advised funds, appreciated stock, IRA charitable rollover, to name a few. Consult with your tax advisor on which option is ideal for your personal situation.
    • Become a member, renew your membership or purchase a gift membership for friends and family. View membership options at sciowa.org/membership

    • Make a legacy gift. Inspire the next generation by advancing STEM resources in the future with a planned gift from your estate. A bequest in your will or designating the Science Center of Iowa as one of your insurance beneficiaries are a couple examples. Learn more at sciowa.myplannedgift.org

    • Amplify Your Impact: Become a STEM Champion! Amplify your impact by crafting a personal SCI fundraising page and becoming a STEM Champion. Create a team and challenge your friends or colleagues! Learn more about becoming a STEM Champion

    Together, we will continue to spark innovation and imagination for the next 50 years and beyond. 

  • #SCI50th: A safe space for relevant conversations

    #SCI50th: As we celebrate 50 years of inspiration and impact at the Science Center of Iowa, we are sharing stories and memories of how SCI was established, grew and continues to serve the next generation. View the timeline and stories at www.sciowa.org/50th

    "If we can bring science to the front of the conversation, that helps to better guide clarity and true knowledge."

    The Science Center of Iowa prides itself on being a safe space.  

    Volunteers and staff have worked hard to build up a significant amount of trust, and it’s a place where people feel comfortable and welcome. 

    That’s why the science center is in a unique position to host relevant conversations on topics such as race and mental health.  

    "Having a place where individuals feel welcome to address these difficult conversations is really important," said Renee Harmon, the vice president of science learning.  "We feel as though it is almost beholden to us that we make a commitment to our community to be that safe space, to engage in those tough conversations and bring people together who have different perspectives and be that open platform."

    Another reason is because science and data can help destigmatize sensitive subjects.  

    "If we can bring science to the front of the conversation, that helps to better guide clarity and true knowledge and, hopefully, develop more informed advocates," said board member and president of Mid-Iowa Health Suzanne Minnick. "I think the science center is the ideal place to foster these types of conversations."

    Minnick was a driving force behind setting up the Mental Health: Mind Matters exhibit at the science center in 2019.  

    The exhibit shined a light on mental illness and provided context to misinformation about mental illness and the gaps that have been left by science. 

    Harmon said her favorite thing about the exhibit was that people could anonymously write down their experience with mental health on note cards and then display them in the exhibit. 

    "There was nothing more powerful about that for me, personally, than to read people's notes who shared from their heart, shared their life experience and the message of hope," Harmon said. "We saw individuals that were writing things like, 'You can get through it.' People told their stories in a way that helped people connect and understand that they're not alone."

    SCI also has hosted RACE: Are We So Different? twice in the last decade. 

    The exhibit focused on the science behind race. It dove into the history of the idea of race and how science shaped concepts of race and human variation. 

    "We looked at racism throughout our country and how it affects laws, our customs and even our schools," Harmon said. "It really dove into how people are different and the uniqueness of every individual. "

    "But then, it celebrated those differences when it comes to identity when it comes to family background and even language, culture and customs," Harmon continued. "It also talked a lot about discrimination and oppression."

    "When we’re making decisions about exhibits like this, we feel like it gives us the opportunity to provide the chance for our community to explore the tough conversations in a safe space," she said.