On the 5th November we celebrated our 9th birthday. Last year I wrote an article about Fun Science turning 8 and in it I wrote that “Fun Science isn’t slowing down yet”. At that point, we had no idea that within five months we were going to be in the middle of a nationwide pandemic that threatened to slow us down quite considerably!
The last few months of 2019 were relatively plain sailing for us as Fun Science branches across the UK celebrated Christmas with festive potions, sending Santa into space on a rocket and super absorbent snow powder. We all took a couple of weeks off for the festive period and in January we launched many more after schools clubs in UK schools and geared up for a busy term ahead. We often find that party bookings increase for us in the winter months as parents look for an alternative to outdoor parties. It’s great because it means our franchisees are able to earn a lot of their yearly income in the winter months and have a bit more time off in the summer months.
March 2020 was, as always, a huge month for us with British Science Week – a time that all our branches see a massive increase in school workshop bookings and public events. This year we were also invited back to the hugely successful ‘My Science Fair’ where over 400 parents and children crowded into an auditorium to watch our brand new ‘super sonic sound show’. As I write this, in November 2020, it feels difficult to imagine quite that many people all in one room together!
Towards the end of March, we were busy unpacking boxes from British Science Week when it was announced that the country would go into a national lockdown. At this point, there was no mention of government grants or furlough schemes and so we set to work quickly to think of ways that we could carry on demonstrating practical science to children as well as continuing to support our staff and franchisees. Our first ideas were postal science kits and a children’s coding club. Within a week we had built up a database of more than 400 children who were taking part in either our home science kits or coding club. Between all our branches we posted kits out on a weekly basis and continued doing this until the end of the school term in July. Other ‘lockdown’ activities include releasing a free E-book, offering free zoom assemblies for schools across the UK, running online science sessions and workshops and putting on shows in parks aimed at pre-schoolers and their parents.
We are now well into the first term of the 2020-2021 academic year and we are delighted to be back running after school clubs in some of our schools with others due to restart in January 2021. Fortunately, the government has recognised the importance of children’s activities and we are able to run a majority of our services at all tiers of the lockdown. We are still continuing with some online sessions as well because we have discovered that they actually work better for some children, particularly those with ASD or sensory processing disorders, who find it difficult to be in a noisy room. Being able to mute the children and then unmute them one at a time makes for a much calmer environment and ensures every child gets a chance to share their ideas and work.
This year we have also launched three new branches in Cheltenham, Exeter and Medway. All three branches launched during the Covid-19 pandemic but all have managed to run small group birthday parties and some have even run their first holiday clubs already with more in the pipeline for December.
We can’t wait to see what the next year brings and here’s hoping it’s less dramatic than this year!