Michigan Science Center exhibit aims to fill COVID-19 learning gaps for Detroit students

National media is already calling them “a lost generation“, but many educators are hopeful that America’s most vulnerable students, children from lower-income families who were forced to undergo virtual learning during the coronavirus pandemic, will be able to regain lost skills. 

report released at the end of 2020 shows that white students were set back one to three months in math, while students of color lost three to five months in STEM education during the pandemic. But the Michigan Science Center (MiSci), along with the Ford Motor Company Fund and Axalta, is launching a year-long exhibit to help bring math to daily life for young Detroiters and meet their needs. 

The installation is designed for families and students, and connects visitors to the real math behind topics kids love most — video games, sports, fashion, music, robotics, and more — to create interactive, immersive learning experiences. 

MiSci initially opened “MathAlive!”, an 8000-square-foot exhibit that connects math to daily life and potential careers, in June, but flood damage from storms forced the science center to close temporarily.

This month MiSci will partially reopen with a reboot of its all-new “MathAlive!” exhibit, with an opening day planned for Saturday, September 18. The reopening coincides with the Smithsonian’s Museum Day, which offers free admission to museums like MiSci, affiliated with the institution around the country. Additionally, to celebrate its reopening, MiSci is offering reduced rates, at $12, for all guests through September. 

Dr. Christian Greer“With many of the repairs and improvements in place, we are excited to welcome our audiences and communities back to the Science Center,” says Dr. Christian Greer, president and CEO of MiSci.

“We’ve truly appreciated the support we received from our community and sponsors during this time and I’m particularly proud of our team’s resiliency and perseverance in handling the unexpected and challenging circumstances the storms presented to our facility.”

“MathAlive!” is designed for students in grades three to eight and provides interactive experiences like controlling the Curiosity Rover, riding a snowboard, designing a skateboard, engineering a model city, creating a sustainable skyscraper and striking a pose in a 360-degree freeze-motion photo shoot.

“Extreme Weather Alert” lets the kids analyze weather data and record their own weather telecast, which they can send to themselves. There is even an exhibit dedicated to cyber security that allows kids to step inside an online computer game where they are challenged to defend against invaders — like computer bugs and viruses — using computer passcodes, multi-factor authentication, and simple code sequences.
Each area is accompanied by stories and features from professionals and visionaries, highlighting how they apply math in their respective fields every day.

“Last summer our team was deeply concerned about the potential negative impact of the pandemic on K-12 learning, particularly in math,” says Christian Greer, president and CEO of MiSci said in a statement.

“We felt that this effect, now known as the COVID slide, could derail thousands of students, particularly those that were already performing below grade level,” says Greer. “We were determined to do something about it, so we worked for nearly eight months to secure a highly interactive exhibition.”

“Now, with the generous support of the Ford Motor Company Fund and Axalta, we can put the brakes on the COVID slide by equipping teachers and parents with a new immersive tool to engage young learners in math.”
“MathAlive!” originated in Washington, D.C. and premiered at the Smithsonian Institution. It is a touring national program developed in collaboration with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, NASA, the National Society of Professional Engineers, MATHCOUNTS, the Society of Women Engineers and MathMovesU.
MiSci is located at 5020 John R. Street in Midtown, Detroit and is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.