Rosie Research started in an unexpected way. I had never really thought about going back to science, and our family was really happy doing our own thing, owning our own unrelated business.
Apparently the universe had different plans for us though. On New Years day of 2015 Isabella, my older daughter, asked for a story about a colorful moon. We had gotten into the habit of telling these really long, engaging stories to pass the time on car trips, so the request wasn’t unusual at all. The colored moon part threw me for a loop, so as I’m making up the intro to this story my mind is fumbling and grasping at any straw possible to think of how I could color the moon. It landed on using lasers and optics… I think I just pulled from the many years spent in a lab fixing lasers for my PhD and before I knew it I had this bubbly girl super science hero walking around town banging on doors until she found an eclectic 2 ft tall mad genius. As the story unfolded I kept dropping in optical terms, and slyly mentioning how optics worked. I even threw in a back of the envelope calculation about making a lens the size of the Earth. An hour later my husband, Evan, looked at me and said “well, that’s your life work right there”.
For the next few months Isabella was insatiable. In addition to Rosie and the Case of the Colored Moon, we dreamt up Rosie and the Dark Matter Croonies (pulling from my days working on the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search in Ely, MN) and Rosie and the Changing DNA. Then, Isabella took it to a whole new level. She wanted to do the science we were talking about, which was a problem because last I checked they don’t let 5 year olds work on lasers…or mutate DNA. But here is my 5 year old’s sweet little face begging to do the science. And as a mom with a science background, how could I possibly say no?
Over the next few months we went from these long car stories to actual labs in our house. With my graphic design background I created a little lab book for her and wrote our first lab mystery, Rosie Research and the Color Changing Smoothie. It probably took me two days to make that first draft since I wanted it to look nice and be really engaging. More so than just “do this, you’re done” type of science she had been exposed to.
She spent hours on that lab. Hours. At dinner that night she said “so Mommy, what lab are we doing tomorrow”. We had to console her after I mentioned that we could do maybe one lab a week, but more likely one a month. The time input along with owning our own business and being a stay at home mom to two was just too high for much else.
That summer we solved the Color Changing Smoothie, created a Kitchen Battery, molded Shape Shifting Circuits and more.
This all probably would have stayed a side hobby of science enrichment if it weren’t for library story time with my littlest, Georgia. It seems like such an odd place to really kickstart all of this off the ground, but there you have it. A friend of mine who also attended was looking for speakers at our local observatory, which, in all honesty, I didn’t even know we had. I spent 40+ hours putting together a Mars Rover talk. Fifteen minutes in Isabellla leaned over to Evan and asked when they got to do something.
The next month BPAstroKids was born, mostly because if I was going to spend a ridiculous amount of time prepping something, I wanted my kids to get something out of it. I knew that kids wouldn’t want a whole lot of talking, and at BPAstroKids we were all about a whole lot of doing. We’ve made balloon powered cars, film canister rockets, take home telescopes, CD sundials and much more. With all the parents telling me how much they loved it, and all the content I was creating, I decided just recently to make the step from a home side hobby to the real deal.
One of my favorite labs is still our first lab, Rosie Research and the Color Changing Smoothie. I think it’s a great starting point for homeschool parents of younger little ones, or just people looking for easy home science projects. All you need is a purple cabbage and anything under your kitchen sink. Purple cabbage, and everything else you see in this world that is a deep purple/blue (think blackberries, wine, beets etc) are natural pH indicators. It is a science project often found in preschool science guides, with twists of mystery and training.
I am deeply against the type of science that is just the oooh and ahhh watching science. I really want kids to get their hands messy, and experiment. I want them to try more than one thing. I want them to look at shaving cream, antacids, dish detergents, anything and everything. I want them to learn how to record their findings, how to group things based on those findings. I want them to be little scientists. And the interesting thing is, kids want that too. I had a few parents in the beginning tell me that their kid could never sit through such a thing, or that it just isn’t interesting. Those same parents now come back asking for more lab ideas or science fair project ideas.
The best part of it all is that these labs are changing science attitudes. There is something about the need and desire to solve a mystery, and I think it helps that I don’t try and give them the right answers. Just like science in the real world, they get to fumble around looking, while all the time having a blast. Turns out, kids are OK with that.
Now I am working on setting up a Patreon page, where homeschool parents, unschool parents, after school science parents can go to subscribe to these labs. My hope is that we can find enough families interested that I can ultimately switch jobs and just do really fun engaging science all day.
Want to check out the lab? You can download Rosie Research and the Color Changing Smoothie lab over there, and if you become a patron you will get our Asteroid of Doom Trilogy when it is completed. I mean really, who doesn’t want to save the world with lasers and jello??