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COSI makes roadshow stop in Steubenville

SOMETHING EXTRA — The Center of Science and Industry had a presence in Steubenville on Wednesday, joining alongside Urban Mission’s food distribution to provide families with free “Learning Lunchbox” science kits. Alex Wilkins, COSI program manager, holds one of 400 kits distributed, taking a photo opp with an inflatable dinosaur. -- Janice Kiaski

STEUBENVILLE — Families participating in Urban Mission Ministries’ drive-through distribution Wednesday at the warehouse not only came away with food donations, but received a “Learning Lunchbox” too for their children.

And a “dinosaur” in their midst observed it all.

Both were part of the Columbus-based Center of Science and Industry’s statewide roadshow that came to Steubenville for two hours via a van with four staff members on a mission to help make science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educational programming more accessible to Ohio communities.

One of them was Alex Wilkins, COSI program manager.

“I am here with COSI, and we are partnering with the Works science center, and we are working on a project that is helping to bring distance learning to kids and families that are spending a little bit more time at home and might not have access to learning, to education, science activities and online content,” Wilkins explained.

“We’re bringing a physical implementation of science activities, and inside all of our boxes are all the instructions and all of the supplies that you need to do a really fun science activity, and we’re passing them out for free,” Wilkins said. “I’m specifically targeting kids and families that don’t necessarily have access to resources or might be underserved or underfunded.”

The kits are good for ages kindergarten through eight, with grades three through five the perfect age range, according to Wilkins. “We try to make it really general so that the whole family can have access, and the whole family can enjoy all together,” she said.

Families had the opportunity to drive through and pick up a free COSI Learning Lunchbox — a box filled with five science activities. After supplies were depleted, COSI was to distribute a free COSI Science Snack, a box featuring one science activity to do at home. COSI joined Urban Mission to distribute kits alongside the normal food distribution. Among those helping hand out the bags — there were 400 of them — were Steubenville Mayor Jerry Barilla and state Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire.

“We have a lot of other stuff that we brought from COSI,” Wilkins added. “Not only are we bringing the physical activities to our partners and to our community, but we’re also bringing a big van, a big transit that we actually have outfitted with Wi-Fi so we bring Wi-Fi hotspots so that people who come up to receive our kits and receive their meal can hop on the Wi-Fi for free and download science activities,” she explained.

“We have an online platform called COSI Connects — it’s COSI.org/Connects — and that is kind of our digital universe of free videos, activities, podcasts, we have a tour of our dinosaur gallery online, and that’s all for free, so what they can do is they can have access to our Wi-Fi, and while they’re on the Wi-Fi, they can download videos, download activities, so that they have for the week that they’re going home, they might not have Wi-Fi or they might not have regular access to Wi-Fi hotspots especially when the libraries aren’t open in the same way that they used to be, schools aren’t open in the same way they used to be, so we are getting them digital content, physical content,” she continued.

Wilkins noted the “really cool thing about today in Steubenville is that we are partnering with other science centers across the state of Ohio, so we have partnered with Imagination Station in Toledo, the Great Lakes Science Center up in Cleveland and today here in Steubenville we’re partnering with the Works, so not only are we giving out COSI curated activities that we have built ourselves, we’re also giving out science activities curated by the Works.”

Since summer, the COSI roadshow already has served more than 1,100 families across Ohio, including stops in Athens, Canton, Lima, Chillicothe, Parma and Dayton.

A press release noted, “COSI recognizes that not everyone has access to an Internet connection or a compatible device — and therefore may not have access to digital learning materials like COSI Connects. Working with Children’s Hunger Alliance, COSI is supplying hundreds of physical Learning Lunchboxes alongside meal distributions to facilitate distance learning.

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