American Public Media’s Award-Winning Science Podcast Brains On! Receives National Science Foundation Grant

Brains On! and the Science Museum of Minnesota explore the impact COVID-19 education has on children’s virus-related worry and fear

ST. PAUL, Minn., JUNE 11, 2020— Brains On!, the award-winning science podcast for curious kids and families from American Public Media, in collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota, is the recipient of a National Science Foundation Rapid Response Research grant to fund their project in the category of “Addressing Families’ COVID-19 Information and Education Needs Through Podcast Media.”

Brains On! and SMM will join forces for a 12-month research project analyzing how listening to Brains On! coronavirus related content affects children’s understanding of scientific concepts related to the pandemic. The study will test Brains On! and SMM’s current hypothesis: that children who are introduced to kid-friendly science-based reporting on COVID-19 will have lower levels of worry and fear of the pandemic. Through this process, the organizations also hope to empower children to ask pandemic-related questions and engage in more science-based conversations with their families.

“We hope our research will provide important insights for the informal science education field on how to best support the unique needs of kids and their families not only during the COVID-19 pandemic, but future global crises,” said Dr. Amy Grack Nelson, the evaluation and research manager at SMM. The research will be conducted via online surveys of Brains On! listener families with children ages 5 to 12. To participate in the survey, sign up at brainson.org/research.

The grant will support the production of three additional COVID-19 podcast episodes from Brains On! There will also be an online hub accessible for families to find COVID-19 information as well as previous pandemic related episodes such as “Staying home: how social distancing helps fight coronavirus” and “Virus busters: how scientists are working to stop the coronavirus.”

“We feel it’s really important to help kids understand what’s happening by giving them clear, straight-forward information that doesn’t talk down to them but also doesn’t provoke fear,” said Molly Bloom, host of Brains On! “It’s also really important for us to have opportunities to hear kids’ questions and their experiences during this pandemic—and for these episodes to have a bit of fun as well.”

The NSF’s RAPID funding mechanism is currently focused on projects working towards understanding the spread of COVID-19 and encourage the development of processes and actions to address this current global challenge.

This project will continue through April of 2021. Findings will be shared throughout the project to a wide range of audiences that will be able to immediately apply the findings to create media and other coronavirus-related educational resources for families. Moreover, research results will be shared through webinars and on BrainsOn.org and informalscience.org.

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About American Public Media

American Public Media® (APM) is the national programming and distribution division of American Public Media Group and reaches 19 million listeners via approximately 1,000 radio stations nationwide each week. APM is one of the largest producers and distributors of public radio programming in the world, with a portfolio that includes BBC World Service, Marketplace®, and the leading classical music programs in the nation. APM offers a diverse array of podcasts featuring the best in food, culture, entertainment, business and investigative journalism. For more information on APM, visit americanpublicmedia.org

Source: Data are copyright Nielsen Audio, Nationwide DMA data, Persons 12+, Fall ‘19.

About National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2020, its budget is $8.3 billion. NSF funds research in all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

About the Science Museum of Minnesota

The Science Museum of Minnesota is one of the state’s most beloved museums, with a reach that extends well beyond its riverfront location in downtown Saint Paul. Along with serving hundreds of thousands of people each year through its unique combination of cutting-edge technology, hands-on STEM exploration, and world-class collection of fossils and artifacts, the museum reaches schools in all 87 Minnesota counties; provides critical STEM workforce development and leadership training for youth; and conducts research on water quality, climate change, paleontology and archaeology in locations around the world. Equity work is in the Science Museum’s DNA, demonstrated through its commitment to being a resource to the entire community – at a time when science and scientific learning and equitable access to STEM and STEM careers is more critical than ever. For more information, visit smm.org.