Biology Department, Levitt Center Launch SciKids on YouTube
When the pandemic began, more than just in-person classes were put on pause. Programs that fostered college and community connections also took a hit, including Science Exploration Days. On these days, third-graders from local elementary schools would visit Hamilton to rotate through spaces in the Taylor Science Center. There they participated in experiments and learned about scientific processes. Assistant Professor of Biology Natalie Nannas loved these sessions. At the end of each one, she always had a few wonderstruck students asking if this meant they were scientists, too.
Although Science Exploration Days have yet to resume, Hamilton’s new SciKids YouTube channel offers a remote way to get even more students wondering if science may be in their future.
“It’s really important to have these early experiences before kids shut their minds to science,” Nannas said. “We want to excite kids and challenge this perspective of what a scientist looks like.”
The channel launched in March 2022, but the project, which is a collaborative effort between Hamilton's Biology Department and the Levitt Center, began in 2020. That summer, Nannas and a group of students came together to develop a new seminar course in genetic medicine with a focus on creating social impact beyond campus. As a pilot for a final project, the group began work on an at-home DNA isolation video that could fill the need left by the absence of Science Exploration Days.
Emnet Sisay ’22, Pablo Reina-González ’22, Shelby McVey ’22, and Nannas, along with her young daughter, filmed themselves conducting the experiment at home. These videos were then edited and spliced together by Michaela Murdock ’22, who took the video over as her final project for the course and continued working on the project for her senior thesis.
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Murdock, a digital arts minor, had the skills to turn the project into a cohesive and engaging video. As an ethical science interdisciplinary major, she recognized the importance of the video’s diversity and representation.
“There’s a huge amount of stereotype threat for impressionable kids,” Murdock said. “If they don’t see themselves represented in the scientific community, it may lead to them counting themselves out. So I think that having this video with people who are diverse and unapologetically showing up as themselves in a scientific setting — with the lab coats off and the nail polish on — can really reinforce that this is a place for people of all sorts of different identities.”
Murdock has worked closely with LITS staff, especially Instructional Designer Sacharja Cunningham ’19. In addition to compiling the different videos, Murdock filmed an introduction using a green screen and added explanations, graphics, and music. Even through these edits, Murdock portrayed the genuineness of science without over-glamorizing it.
“There’s a very organic feel to our video,” Nannas said. “It feels like you’re in the room with me, or in the lab with Shelby. And it’s not explosions and excitement everywhere like in a lot of videos. Our video really tries to show the real side of science. That’s something we want to continue showing as we create more videos for our channel.”
Nannas and Murdock hope to see the channel expand into other science departments and continue growing even after Science Exploration Days resume.