Now, the day of reckoning had come. As the Intersections team waited, the kids took the app in hand and made it their own. Slowly their posts started to trickle in: a swarm of bees, then a 3-D printed heart. One teen added a photo of his buddy gripping a Van de Graaff generator, his hair wild with static electricity. Three girls snapped the neuroscience colorblind display.
The posts continued to roll in throughout the day: genetic vs. natural tomatoes, robotic arms, magnetic feats of wonder. Some focused on the science, and some focused on themselves, but the “kids showed what we’d hoped for,” said Martin, “that if you give youth an unstructured place to explore and comment on the things they are learning, then they will—sometimes in ways you don’t expect.”
Many kids treated the app like other social media, but some went further, posing questions to the discussion stream, which sometimes sparked other questions. The posts continued for days after the festival.
One user snapped the wispy clouds on the ride home. “Mare’s tails,” he noted, “foretelling a storm.” It snowed that night.
“Our little snowball was starting to roll,” said Martin. Altogether, there were nearly 800 posts from that weekend.
The team continues to collaborate and expand the app each year. They are also building a “Science Around ME” network. Educators and learners in both informal and formal settings are developing sites for the network. In 2016, three teachers were working with their students to create local, place-based sites. The two organizations continue to partner on other projects as well. The Maine Writing Project now holds its spring writing conference at the museum, and during summer 2016, the museum hosted a portion of the writing project’s WRITEscience Invitational Summer Institute.
The partnership gave shape to what was once only an idea—that writing projects and science-technology centers are natural partners for supporting discovery and learning by young people and their communities.
“Educators from formal and informal settings are an especially promising combination for integrating science and literacy,” the team wrote in its final report on the project.