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University of Regina students (l to r) Kovie Luu BSc’20, Tom Duffy BSc’20, and Kevina Mullock BSc’19 host The Couch Potato Lab – a new series of science lessons livestreamed on the EYESYouth YouTube channel.
University of Regina students (l to r) Kovie Luu BSc’20, Tom Duffy BSc’20, and Kevina Mullock BSc’19 host The Couch Potato Lab – a new series of science lessons livestreamed on the EYESYouth YouTube channel. Photos: EYES

Bored? Enter The Couch Potato Lab: fun, free livestreamed science experiments for kids

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: May 1, 2020 12:00 a.m.


Given the COVID-19 pandemic, kids and their parents have suddenly been spending a lot more time at home together. Many parents (and grandparents) have found themselves trying to juggle working from home with home schooling and keeping the kids meaningfully occupied.

A highly successful University of Regina program, that makes science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) accessible and fun has stepped in to give parents a break and keep their kids busy, educated, and entertained – all from the comfort of their couch and all for free.

Part of the U of R’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, the Educating Youth in Engineering and Sciences (EYES) program has just launched The Couch Potato Lab – a series of science lessons for kids streamed through YouTube. EYES is a not-for-profit organization that provides Saskatchewan youth with the opportunity to experience STEM in a fun, hands-on way. Typically, EYES offers STEM workshops and camps for kids in grades 1-9 across the province, but has adapted their delivery method to suit a free, online format. Megan Moore, program coordinator for EYES, said the idea for video streaming lessons was already being planned, but saw an opportunity to get the program up and running and offer now during these challenging times.

“Our plan was to begin offering online lessons in the summer, but as soon as COVID-19 hit we knew we had an opportunity to expand the accessibility of our programming. We rallied our team and in only a few weeks, we launched,” said Moore.

In mid-February, Moore was approached by Graffiti TV, a local television production company, about offering their studio space in-kind and developing science programming. As a natural partner, EYES began planning to create streamed courses to supplement their normal offerings. With in-person program delivery options not currently possible, staff that would typically be travelling around the province giving workshops have been putting their efforts towards creating online lessons.

“All of our staff have been so excited to jump in. Everyone has been working hard and it is paying off. We have

05-011.jpg
Tom Duffy BSc’20 is excited
about the opportunities
presented by livestreaming
science lessons.

had more than 1000 people view the first livestream and this is just the beginning,” said Moore.

Each episode of The Couch Potato Lab features a revolving cast of three scientists – chosen based on expertise – presenting a fun and engaging lesson centred on Saskatchewan curriculum. Accompanying each lesson is a manual with detailed instructions, a list of items needed, and even an experiment for the kids to complete on their own – reinforcing what they have learned from the lesson. If anything is unclear, kids can get their parents to text in or ask questions through the EYES social media pages and have the questions answered by the scientists during the livestream.

With content designed to be understood at any age and experiments that make use of readily available household items like plastic cups, water, and dry cereal, the lessons are accessible and safe for all.  Experiments so far have included dissecting a banana to teach about DNA and finding out what household items will sink or swim to teach about buoyancy.

“It’s a ton of fun, but they are real lessons grounded in real science,” said Moore.

Tom Duffy BSc’20 has been working with EYES for the past three summers, delivering programming for kids across the province. He notes the changes that have been needed to be made to deliver lessons via streaming. 

“If you are on the University of Regina campus, you can get whatever chemicals or technology you need. Moving to the online streaming format made us get even more creative – always mindful of accessibility and safety,” said Duffy.

He also acknowledged the amazing potential of the adapted program delivery.

“In person, we are limited to presenting to 20 or 30 kids in a class. With livestreaming, we can offer the program to so many more kids in more places,” said Duffy. “We are still able to create an energetic atmosphere, not take ourselves too seriously, and offer the same amount of fun, enjoyable learning opportunities a kid would receive participating in EYES in person.”

Accessibility has always been important for EYES and The Couch Potato Labs is a definite step towards making STEM programming available to anyone in the province or Canada. By offering the lessons online, Saskatchewan teachers now have science references to use when creating lesson plans and parents can have fun, free educational programming for their kids. And with distance now longer an issue, those living in rural communities, can participate in EYES programming as long as they have the appropriate internet access.

“If this modality can inspire a passion for STEM in a student, wherever they are, then we have accomplished our goal,” said Moore.

Moore also noted that the livestreams can play a part in creating better representation within STEM with many of the on-screen scientists showcasing a wide spectrum of gender, sexuality, and racial backgrounds. 

"We do a great job of featuring a range of students from our staff - really opening up our viewers to the idea that scientists come in all shapes, sizes, colours, and backgrounds," said Moore.

The lessons currently take place Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1:00 p.m. on the EYESYouth YouTube channel and are available for viewing any time after the stream ends. Ample planning time is being given to make sure the programming can be delivered at a high production level before things kick into gear in the summer months.

“April is our pilot month. We will shoot and stream six episodes and be able to tweak to make the best program possible. By May, we are looking at running shows five days a week,” said Moore. “We can even stream lessons remotely, and are planning to include virtual field trips with the Royal Saskatchewan Museum and the Science Centre as destinations.”

With so much uncertainty in the world, Moore realizes the importance of the program, and the outlet The Couch Potato Lab offers for kids and parents across the province.

“For all of the kids and parents stuck at home, if we can take an hour out of their day, give them a break, and have the kids learn something while laughing at our jokes, that is a huge win,” said Moore. “We are all really excited about the incredible potential of this program and where it might take us!”

Visit the EYES website to learn more about The Couch Potato Lab and to see the schedule of free upcoming livestreams. 

Check out #UofReginaCares for more stories about U of R faculty, students, alumni, and staff who are using their ingenuity, resolve, and hearts to care for our community during these challenging times. 

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