By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – You don’t need fancy lab equipment to conduct educational science experiments.
Just follow Letty Reichart’s lead.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney associate biology professor is livestreaming family-friendly activities from her kitchen to keep kids across the country entertained and engaged while they’re stuck at home during the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
“Kids are out of their routine. Adults are out of their routine. And everybody is trying to make the best of a bad situation,” Reichart said. “I’m capable of doing something like this, so why not share it and make it available to other people?”
“Dr. Letty’s Science Lab” is the result of a conversation Reichart had with close friend Elaine Mefferd, who owns K-Town Shakedown with her husband Chad. After the couple temporarily closed their downtown Kearney fitness studio, Mefferd started recording workout videos she shares on the business’ Facebook page.
Mefferd suggested Reichart, an instructor at the studio, create free science lessons for elementary students impacted by school closures.
The UNK faculty member, whose stepchildren are in the fourth and sixth grades, already had a number of “crazy activities” in mind.
On Tuesday morning, Reichart recorded her first episode of “Dr. Letty’s Science Lab” using an iPad attached to her kitchen cupboard. She showed viewers how to inflate balloons using a pop bottle, baking soda and vinegar and created bubbling designs by pouring the mixture into cookie cutters and adding food coloring.
Each episode can be viewed live on the K-Town Shakedown Facebook page, allowing Reichart to interact with children watching remotely and answer questions. The videos are also archived so they can be viewed any time.
A materials list is posted ahead of time so viewers can conduct their own experiments during the demonstrations, which utilize items most people already have at home.
Reichart, who will make slime and talk about non-Newtonian fluids at 7 p.m. Thursday, plans to record a new episode of “Dr. Letty’s Science Lab” at least twice a week to bring some joy to children and their parents during this difficult situation.
“I feel like, as adults, we forget to play,” she said. “We could all use a little bit of mental stimulation these days. It keeps us sane.”
She’s also encouraging others to get involved by posting their own online videos for people to enjoy – even if it’s as simple as reading a book, painting a picture or building something with Legos.
“Everybody could do something like this,” Reichart said. “There are so many talented people out there. You just have to take the skills you have and share them.”