The Denver Museum of Nature & Science, which earned its reputation as a must-visit destination for Denver families, science lovers and tourists alike with a mix of educational and blockbuster programming, has expanded its outreach through the coronavirus closure.
It's offering bilingual educational materials, a Virtual Science Academy for teachers, and resources for students to experiment with science at home.
Westword caught up with DMNS CEO and President George Sparks over email to talk about how he's handling the shutdown, what Denver residents can do virtually through the museum, and how the community can help the organization weather the closure.
Westword: How are you holding up through this?
George Sparks: I’m probably doing the same as everyone else reading this. How does this new crisis affect my family, team and job? Most of us alive today have not been tested in such a profound way. Our parents and grandparents made it through WWI, the 1918 flu pandemic, the Great Depression and WWII. We have more resources and knowledge than they did, and we have great leaders in Colorado, so I am supremely confident that we will prevail and prosper once again.
Talk about what DMNS is offering through the closures.
I invite you to check out our at-home learning recommendations at dmns.org/learn, with resources in English and Spanish for fun and engaging science activities. In addition, our Facebook page offers virtual science programming from our Scientist in Action programs (one favorite is titled "Eight Legged Superheroes") and Virtual Science Academy for teachers. Our partners at MacGillivray Freeman are offering free educational films. Members continue to receive access to digital museum content, such as “60 Minutes in Space”; if you’re a member, check your inbox, the DMNS app or email us at email@example.com to register. And we’re encouraging everyone to stay curious and share their at-home experiments using #DMNSScienceParty.
What is the projected financial impact from the closure? What are you doing to fill the gap?
The financial impact remains to be seen. As a nonprofit organization that relies on members, donors and ticket sales, we are grateful to the people who continue to support our mission of igniting people’s passion for nature and science, and making science learning accessible for all. We are adjusting expenses so that we can continue to deliver on our mission — now, while we are offering virtual programs, and when we reopen to the public.
What is DMNS doing to support the community through this, and what can the community do to support DMNS?
I’m so proud of our staff. They donated all PPE supplies that we have in our building to the State of Colorado to care for COVID-19 patients. Our educators are offering free Virtual Science Academy programs to teachers and families. And our CFO met with SCFD partners to share tools and insights on how their organizations might be able to weather this storm.
We will continue to support the nonprofit community through collaborations when we are all able to reopen to the public — we are working on that plan now. As you know, this is only possible because of our community, who continue to support us through SCFD, membership and donations.
A gift of $35 can “send” a child to a virtual science class. Of course, not everyone is able to do that now, but some can and already have. We are so grateful for any support we receive — from monetary donations and resource-sharing to words of encouragement. It makes a difference!
Talk about some of the educational projects and camps that are available online.
How about other online offerings? Are you working on any new projects for the public through this?
We've been hard at work to continue to support schools and teachers during this unprecedented time. We are reinventing our Virtual Science Academy and Scientists in Action programming, with educators dissecting lemons in their home kitchens and scientists making backyard discoveries. We encourage you to follow us on social media and visit dmns.org/learn to stay up on new offerings as we roll them out.
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Additionally, we're working with our partners across Colorado school districts to find out what resources teachers need to launch back into their school year, when that time comes.
Is there anything else you'd like to speak to?
Many people don’t know that in addition to educational programs and exhibitions, we have Ph.D. scientists who are active researchers. Scientific research is very much a collaborative pursuit, and we continue to prepare fossils, analyze data, work remotely with collaborators, and publish papers sharing findings from the field and collections-based research that our award-winning Science Division is involved in.
Above all, my hope is that after the crisis has passed, we remember how it was to treat each other with kindness and empathy. This is an opportunity to change the tone of our public discussions and become united as Americans once again.