Of all the online science education videos the Pacific Science Center offers for families educating their kids under quarantine, the biggest hit is a 19-minute video entitled “Live Science Show: Combustion,” which has racked up thousands of views.
It deserves to be popular. The show delivers practical and sound science (to have combustion, you need fuel, heat and oxygen) and lots of flames and explosions, courtesy of a lab-coated host, Marissa Wyll, who delivers the lesson with unrestrained glee.
“Would you like to see an explosion today? I hope so!” she says, before triggering some impressive flashes and bangs.
Making the video, one of seven live science shows made for distance education when the Pacific Science Center closed to visitors, involved changing the approach of the live science shows, which usually take place in front of an audience of up to 200 and make a lot of use of audience volunteers and audience feedback.
Online science: the challenges
“It’s a fun challenge, to do these shows that are designed to be very interactive, to just be on the screen,” Wyll says.
“They had to keep reminding me to either look into the camera at times or not look into the camera at times because I’m so used to connecting with the audience,” Wyll says.
Wyll graduated from Western Washington University with a double major in biology and acting, so this job is a good fit for her. (She has also performed in Greenstage Shakespeare in the Park productions and she’s a cast member for the Parachute Players.)
She hosts several of the videos you can find online, but combustion is her favorite.
“It’s very, very fun to perform. Everybody loves fire and explosions. Everyone gets excited about that.”
The Pacific Science Center is coming up with fresh virtual experiences for interested folks, and Wyll is part of that. Most recently, she and a colleague co-hosted a virtual planetarium show on April 28.
She’s passing the time in quarantine by baking a lot of bread.
“I get really excited about creating a starter and thinking about all the microorganisms in it and making bread,” she says.
There isn’t a science of bread video in the pipeline just yet, because Wyll’s phone camera broke.
She misses her old workplace.
“We have some audience members that come every week and those kids know the shows by heart,” she says. “I miss them so much. There’s nothing like having a live audience.”
To explore Pacific Science Center’s many resources for home learners, visit the center’s Curiosity at Home page.
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