Science Chicago Blog
Designed as a major online interactive program of Science Chicago, the Science Chicago Blog launched July 29, 2008, in conjunction with the public announcement of the Science Chicago initiative. Written primarily by our Science Director, Rabiah Mayas, Ph.D., and a team of scientific associates and interns, the blog featured fun science news, discussion of current scientific issues and explanations of the science of everyday things and experiences, all aimed at the target audience of 9-18 year-olds.
The blog also featured occasional guest bloggers and regular writings from high school students in the Young Chicago Authors Science as Metaphor class, in which the students wrote poems and prose related to science, engineering and technology. With the variety of voices and perspectives on the blog came diversity in subject matter, from stem cell legislation and the relationship between Einstein’s formulas and society, to the science of weather patterns and the reasons why cars hydroplane.
The Science Chicago blog is part of the ongoing legacy of the initiative and remains a vibrant and active place for science information and discussion. Check out current posts at sciencechicagoblog.com.
From the start, the blog was viewed as a place to experiment – Is there an audience for a science blog aimed at teens? Which topics will be most popular? What kinds of questions will readers ask? How will the blog complement social media efforts and in-person programming?
Initially, the blog was housed on sciencechicago.com. By the end of 2008, it became clear that the blog needed to move into the “blogosphere” where it would be more easily found and our bloggers could strengthen the Science Chicago social network by connecting with other bloggers. While still accessible from the Science Chicago website, the move to a new blog-specific platform increased daily visits significantly. The Science Chicago blog now averages about 2,500 visits a month, which is on par with other educational websites.
We continue to experiment with ways to increase visitors and comments on the Science Chicago blog. Some of these tactics were relatively easy, such as adding videos to select posts and writing about irresistible topics such as the science of farts and wind chill during a week’s long cold spell.
Some tactics took a bit more coordination and three are highlighted here.
Bust a Myth Contest
In conjunction with the promotion of the March 2009 “Afternoon with Adam and Jamie of the MythBusters,” the Science Chicago Blog presented a “Bust a Myth” contest to promote science inquiry. Students were invited to bust one of two Chicago myths, selected by Science Chicago and focusing on two Chicago icons: baseball and architecture. The interest and excitement generated by the contest and event drove blog visits to record highs for the year. More than 35 students participated in the contest, and the five lucky winners received free tickets to the event and enjoyed a special VIP visit with TV stars Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman before the show.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore BioBlitz 2009
The blog was also an opportunity for young people to post about their own science interests and explorations for their friends, families and other science enthusiasts around the world to see. At BioBlitz Indiana Dunes Lakeshore (May 2009), we gave student attendees the opportunity to blog live from the event site about their experiences exploring the park and identifying species.
Summer Science 2009
In 2009, we ran a weekly Life’s a Lab summer challenge and provided an opportunity for students to try science at home and send in their findings to be posted on the blog. This series of challenges generated a dramatic increase in responses over 2008, and students from 7 to 18 year olds had their ideas and experiments featured on the blog.