Getting Started

So you want to start a Mobile Science Program?  That's great news!  But at this point you might be asking yourself "Where do I start"?  Well one of the first things you have to consider is the type of program you want to initiate.  The answer to this question depends on a lot of factors, including available resources and the needs of your community.  Check out the flow charts underneath to help you through this decision. Further below you'll also find some common program types within the MLC.  Each style offers its own advantages and challenges – that's the fun part!

 

Program Types

 

There are lots of things to consider when initiating a new Mobile Lab.  Honestly, this could be the most difficult decision when creating the vision for your mobile science program.  Hopefully the charts above will help you to narrow down your ideas.  Because vehicle and program choice is determined by your specific needs and requirements, we unfortunately do not have the magic answer.  But here are some things to consider: 1) What size vehicle do you want, 2) Do you want participants to come on board, 3) What is your general environment and location of your program(s), 4) Where will you be running your program and what is the size of the physical location (parking, etc), 5) Do you want a new or used vehicle... and the list goes on and on.  Obviously there are advantages and disadvantages to each program type.  Read the information below to help you get started and for some examples of each program type.  The MLC is here to help you think about, and ultimately determine, the style that best fits the program you'd like to establish.

Likely the most expensive type of program to establish and run; however, this style is also extremely fun and customizable.  The vehicle traditionally parks outside of the school, allowing students to jump into an immersive science experience.

This program style is similar to the one above, but instead of being self-propelled, this self-contained trailer is pulled by another vehicle. Because of this, often times the trailers are a little less expensive at the onset; however, they also might be less customizable and require another vehicle to tow the lab itself .

If resources are tight, then you might consider starting with this style of program.  The branded, in-school platform relies on the school's facilities to host the activities.  These programs are extremely impactful for the students, though slightly less immersive.

Some Mobile Science Programs exist as a conduit for schools to acquire equipment for their students to use.

 
 
 
 

Self-Contained, Self-Propelled

  • Expected Costs

    • Asset acquisition - $50-150k

    • Annual Operating Expenses - $200-400k

  • Note it is difficult to list all the advantages and disadvantages for this style versus the pulled-trailer.  We are happy to discuss options and ideas with you.  Please click on the links to the left for examples of each.

Self-Contained, Pulled-Trailer

  • Expected Costs

    • Asset acquisition - $50-150k

    • Annual Operating Expenses - $200-400k

  • Note it is difficult to list all the advantages and disadvantages for this style versus the self-propelled.  We are happy to discuss options and ideas with you.  Please click on the links to the left for examples of each.

Branded, in-school programs

  • Expected Costs

    • Asset acquisition - $40-50k

    • Annual Operating Expenses - $25-150k

  • Advantages

    • Vehicle can be for equipment only (ie a cargo van) to move materials from site to site.

    • Facilities are provided by the site you are visiting: all electrical, water, lighting, space, tables, chairs etc.

    • Potential to work with more students at a single time (depending on program structure) than might fit into a self-contained vehicle.

    • Teachers get to see hands-on science done in their own classrooms which encourages them to do more hands-on activities in other topics - especially great for out of subject area expertise teachers or newer teachers who aren’t sure what can be handled in a classroom.

    • Less transition time between classes since students don’t have to come out to a location separate from their classroom.

  • Disadvantages

    • Can be difficult (but not impossible) to transition activities to community events since you then need to provide your own set up.

    • Not all locations have the ability to create the setup you need (ie sloping desks only, no tables/water/sink access (if needed), or limited power capability (always fun to blow main fuses in an older school!)

    • Set-up and breakdown of your activities can take longer since you need to completely unpack and re-pack all equipment rather than just put away within a self-contained vehicle

    • Staffing needs may require higher level of skill set since instructors are having to constantly adapt to new, different  classroom set-ups and cultures (ie - require at least 3 years of prior science classroom teaching experience).

    • Instructor’s job is significantly physical: moving equipment in/out of van, hauling equipment boxes up onto tables for unpacking etc.

  • Successes

    • Teachers become more confident in presenting content especially with hands-on learning activities.

    • Option to loan equipment for activities to experienced teachers so that they can do the activities with their own students in following years, leaving you free to work with new schools/teachers (love to see teachers “graduate” to providing their own hands-on lessons)!

    • Students see their classroom as a place in which science actually happens - teachers have reported that after our visit students were more engaged in doing in-classroom activities since they now saw them as ‘real’.

  • Challenges 

    • Because the program is taking over a classroom space, you are constrained by the school’s bell schedule more than an exterior located program would be. Ie - often requires creative scheduling and buy-in from other subject matter teachers.

Equipment Lending Program​

  • Expected Costs

    • Cost vary by program.  Some are free, others charge for the price of the kit + shipping​

  • Advantages

    • ​access to resources, curricula, and development opportunities for secondary school teachers and students that support and strengthen the quality of science education.

  • Disadvantages

    • Teacher uses the kit without the help of a dedicated co-educator​

  • Successes

  • Challenges​​

    • Teachers need to break the inertia an order the kits themselves​

    • Teachers should have some working knowledge of the equipment being used in each kit

    • Requires extra work to ship back the equipment