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Online community

Memorial's public engagement and cultural attractions go-to destinations

By Ashley Wright

The Botanical Garden and the Johnson Geo Centre hit the ground running after the university shifted to remote operations in March.

Busy before the shutdown, Memorial’s public engagement and cultural attractions ramped up its social media presence – and it paid off.

Social reach

The garden’s Facebook page now surpasses 10,000 followers. In May, Facebook videos alone reached well over 26,000 people.

The first Facebook Live of the season, Live From the Greenhouse with Tim Walsh, reached about 10,000 views, with the subsequent Live From the Vegetable Garden with Tim Walsh, more than doubling the number of views with a reach of 24,000.

“The Botanical Garden is the province’s resource and St. John’s backyard,” said Kim Shipp, director of the garden and the Johnson Geo Centre. “In recent years we have become a real community hub. I’m not at all surprised, but nevertheless delighted, that our community continues to gather around us online.”

Wide reach

Between the Botanical Garden and the Geo Centre, five weekly educational activity/information posts are published to social media channels and receive significant feedback.

From soil composition and pollinators to rock candy and science bingos, the activities have a wide reach in terms of interest and age.

The reach is not limited to people who live near the facilities, either.

A student from the Inuit community of Makkovik on Labrador’s North Coast reached out to the garden’s Facebook page.

Genevieve Faulkner with her sprout.
Photo: Submitted

Genevieve Faulkner, age 8, has been following along with the #LearningTogetherTuesday experiments and shared the progress of her bean sprout with garden staff.

Social media talk shows

The Geo Centre, in partnership with the Faculty of Science and supported by Conference and Event Services at Memorial’s Emera Innovation Exchange at Signal Hill Campus, has begun producing a series of short talk show-like segments for Facebook.

“We will be covering anything from supernovae to nutrition and Earth processes to DNA.” — Kim Shipp

The centre is inviting researchers from various university departments to engage with kids for fun science episodes, bridging the academy and community in a fun and meaningful way.

“We will be covering anything from supernovae to nutrition and Earth processes to DNA,” said Ms. Shipp. “We are excited to have almost 20 faculty members involved so far.”

As in-person summer camps are a challenge, both teams are creating a joint virtual summer camp experience called STEAM Quest.

Campers will explore the wonderful worlds of science and the great outdoors with live, online sessions in order for parents to have some “me time” combined with home-based science challenges that will allow kids and parents to play and explore outside to help reduce screen time.

More information on STEAM Quest Virtual Summer Camp can be found here.

Guest Zoom appearances

In addition, garden staff have already led a successful Zoom session with a Grade 3 class on plant needs and basic anatomy live from the nursery.

Both Botanical Garden and Geo Centre teams are ready to transition their on-site classes into online programs for supplementary teaching tools for the fall, as well.

To learn more about Memorial University’s Botanical Garden or the Johnson Geo Centre, please visit their websites here and here or follow them on social media on Facebook for the garden and for the Geo Centre and on Instagram for the garden and the Geo Centre.

Don’t forget! The Botanical Garden officially reopens to visitors on Friday, June 19. Find information about social distancing protocols at the garden here.

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