By Miles Martin
Nothing stops science — not even COVID-19 — and even fewer things stop dedicated toy store owners like Hema Bulmer at Pow! Science!
Like many small businesses around the country and the world, Pow! Science! — of which I’m a proud employee — closed its doors until April 1. But we’re not going on vacation or catching up on tasks around the shop — we’re getting extra creative.
We’re creating science education videos from our basements.
Pow! Science! in Wakefield, Rhode Island, is a family-owned and operated science-themed toy store. But it did not start off as a mere toy shop.
Eric and Hema Bulmer’s original vision for the business was bringing fun science into people’s homes and schools through interactive workshops, birthday parties and school assemblies.
With Eric’s background in science education, he and Hema met while he worked on completing his tenure in the Peace Corps in Nepal as a science teacher and educational trainer. After the two fell in love and married, Hema emigrated to America. She celebrated her swearing-in as a citizen in July 2017.
Responding to COVID-19
COVID-19 has had a major impact on Hema and all of us, her staff. In response to recommendations from the government and health organizations, we moved to online sales only.
But even though the toy sales are restricted at the moment, this is not stopping us from doing what we love to do best: making science fun and educational for kids.
We thought of the idea of making video demonstrations of some of Eric’s experiments, especially as parents scramble for meaningful ways of occupying their time during quarantine. But one problem loomed: If staying safe means closing store doors for customers, is it safe for instructors to come film in the store?
The solution: Have the instructors film from home. I pounced on the idea.
I loved the concept of making videos during this unfortunate downtime, but since I have an 80-year-old grandmother at home, I wasn’t sure about repeatedly coming to the store to film. So I stopped by once, grabbed a ton of materials and set up a makeshift film studio in my basement.
For parents wanting to do the experiments with their kids, they all involve low-cost materials, many of which you probably already own or can purchase from supermarkets. Some examples include using a plastic bottle and a balloon for demonstrating the compression properties of air and using a balloon and an aluminum can to demonstrate static electricity.
We thought it really important to try showing people things they could do on their own. And I actually think doing it in the basement helps because it shows that it’s not about the equipment or the setup. It’s just about making kids happy — and hopefully teaching something.
It’s no surprise Hema continues working toward Pow!’s mission during this trying time. She’s no stranger to tragedy. Eric passed away suddenly in January of 2018.
I remember getting the call about his death while on my way to do three birthday parties. It was the most shocked I’d ever felt, but those kids deserved the best I could do anyway. That’s what we try embodying at Pow! Science! It’s what Eric would have wanted.
Despite the sudden tragedy, we pulled together and kept the business running while Hema took time for grieving.
It’s clear Pow! Science! won’t stop during this new crisis, either — this time a global one. Our first video is on YouTube, with more to follow in the coming weeks.
Because, as Eric used to say, “I realized a long time ago that if what you’re doing doesn’t somehow or other make the world better for kids, you’re wasting your time.”
This story was originally published in the TRIBAL under the TRIBAL Premium Partner Program. More information about TRIBAL can be found at https://tribalapp.com/.