‘Science Trek’ Evolves to Meet Changing Needs of Teachers, Students

Big changes are coming to Science Trek beginning in September.

In 1999, Science Trek (originally titled Dialogue for Kids or D4K) began as a 30-minute live call-in show with a companion website. The mission of the effort was to provide teachers and K-6th grade students with video tools and educational material to excite an interest in science.

Science Trek banner

As technology advanced, teachers and students preferred sending in questions (as email and video files) to faxes and phone calls, so the broadcast show changed. Today, educators find it easier to use video shorts in their classrooms than to play the 30-minute show, so Science Trek is adapting its focus.

“The trend in education to use digital material over traditional broadcast television is undeniable,” says Science Trek producer/host Joan Cartan-Hansen. Some surveys show 94 percent of classroom teachers use video as part of their lessons and younger viewers watch 2.5 times more internet video than TV. “If we are to meet our mission, we need to go where our educators and students already are,” Cartan-Hansen says.

Science Trek starts its 19th season in September with a new digital content focus. Instead of producing new 30-minute broadcast shows, Cartan-Hansen and the Science Trek team will deliver more online-first content. “Each month, we’ll explore a scientific subject with digital shorts available on the Science Trek website, on a new Facebook page for parents and teachers, on YouTube, and on PBS Learning Media, a free, online media-on-demand service developed for PreK-12 educators,” says Cartan-Hansen. The Science Trek team is even experimenting with 360-degree immersive video production.

Cartan-Hansen says in addition to the video, each month’s topic will have facts, links, reading lists, lesson plans, games, and other educational support material all available on the website. The Science Trek website currently has more than 90 different scientific topics with video and supporting educational material all correlated to Idaho’s science standards and the Common Core science standards.

“No longer producing the 30-minute show is a risk,” Cartan-Hansen says, but she is confident that an audience is out there for the digital content. The Science Trek website had more than two million unique page views for the 2016-2017 school year, up 36 percent from the previous year. The Simple Machines video had more than 24,000 downloads in one month on the PBS Learning Media site.

Science Trek won’t disappear from Idaho Public Television’s airwaves. “We will be airing all the video shorts and our 60 Seconds With Science Trek spots on-air each month, and we will repeat the last several seasons of the 30-minute shows,” Cartan-Hansen says. “While our primary platform has changed, our mission has not. We still hope to provide better tools to help educators, students, and parents explore and learn more about science.”

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