Eat. Sleep. Science.
The life of a grad student. Just kidding! This was the slogan for the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry’s Month at the Museum program.
In Fall 2010 MSI sponsored a contest where the winner got to LIVE in the museum, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for a month. Sounds like WAY more fun than graduate school to me. The winner, 20-something Kate McGroarty of Chicago, got to eat, sleep, work and play throughout the entire 14 acre museum campus from October 20 to November 18, 2010. Kind of like Jamie and Claudia in From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Except that she didn’t have to sneak around and hide in the bathrooms because everyone knew she was there.
The museum gave their “roommate” a clear plexiglass cube in the rotunda as an office/exhibit and a converted office/apartment out of public view where she could eat dinner, sleep, and have time to herself. They also gave her free rein through the entire museum and a camera and a computer to document all of her adventures. Of course Kate did the things that anyone would dream of doing in the Museum of Science and Industry: got up close and personal with all the priceless furnishings in the Fairy Castle, slept in the giant hamster wheel, hunted for ghosts on the U-505 submarine, played Mindball with the night watchmen, jogged around the giant train set, and had breakfast with astronaut Jim Lovell next to the Apollo 8 space capsule. Yeah, that astronaut Jim Lovell.
But it wasn’t all fun and games for Kate, she did a lot of hard work during her stay at the museum. She visited schools and sat in on a number of the science workshops MSI offers for students, teachers and the general public. She created blog posts, YouTube videos (the Snuggy Science posts are my favorite), a Twitter feed and a Facebook page. And she spent a lot of time zipping around the museum talking with visitors and lending a hand with all of the cool demonstrations that go on in the museum each day.
Kate was the perfect ambassador for the museum — smart, fun, and friendly with strong teaching skills. The most important thing about Kate is that she came to the roommate experiment without a science background, but with a sense of adventure and an interest in learning. That’s all it takes to enjoy science and science museums, and I’m glad MSI chose to highlight that in choosing Kate. And I’m glad someone finally got to spend enough time in the Museum of Science and Industry to see ALL of the exhibits, labs, demonstrations and behind-the-scenes stuff. Of course, none of her adventures would have been possible without the support of a small army of museum staff. Kate may have been in the spotlight, but her stay shines a light on all of the amazing people who make museums like MSI wonderful places to learn and grow. Tiny Science encourages you to find a science or nature museum (or maybe a zoo or aquarium) in your area and explore. You may not be able to spend the night, but I’m sure you’ll have fun anyway.