RAPID: Addressing Families' Covid-19 Information and Education Needs Through Podcast Media
This RAPID was submitted in response to the NSF Dear Colleague letter related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This award is made by the AISL program in the Division of Research on Learning, using funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The goal of this award is to advance understanding of how children's science podcasts can provide families with information to help ease children's anxiety and fears during a pandemic. The project's hypothesis is that through listening to Brains On! coronavirus-related episodes, children will increase their understanding of science concepts related to the pandemic. As they gain this understanding, it is predicted that their overall fear and anxiety about the pandemic will diminish, they will feel empowered to ask pandemic-related questions and will engage in more science- based conversations with their family members. The project will develop three Brains On! podcast episodes focused specifically on the COVID-19 pandemic for kids aged 5 to 12 and their families. The research questions include:
- How and to what extent do Brains On!'s coronavirus-based episodes help children and their families understand and talk about science-related pandemic topics? What kind of conversations are sparked by these episodes?
- What kinds of questions do children have after listening to the Brains On! coronavirus episodes and what are the reasons for their questions? What can the questions tell us about the impact of listening on kids' science engagement and learning?
- What resources do parents need to answer children's questions and help them understand science topics related to the pandemic?
This project is a collaboration between a media producer, Minnesota Public Radio and researchers at The Science Museum of Minnesota. Brains On! already has a large listening audience, with 7 million downloads a year, and more than 200,000 unique listeners a month and these new episodes are likely to increase listenership further. The research findings will be quickly disseminated to a wide range of audiences that can immediately apply the findings to create media and other coronavirus-related educational resources for families.
The PI's prior NSF funded projects have found that previous Brains On! podcasts with a range of STEM content increase the number and sophistication of the science questions children ask and lead to science-based conversations with family members. This project will study the impacts in relation to a singular topic, COVID-19. Three online surveys of Brains On! listeners (families with children ages 5 - 12 years old) will be conducted. The first survey to be conducted as soon as the project begins will focus on parents reflecting on what information is needed at that stage of the pandemic. Two additional listener surveys will occur immediately after new COVID-19 podcast episodes are released. These surveys will ask content-specific questions to understand how well the episode conveys that information to children and their families, what conversations were sparked from the content, and what additional information needs families have. Prior to administering each of the three surveys, video-based think-aloud interviews with 10 families will test and revise survey questions.
Survey participants will be recruited using language in Brains On! episodes, social media, website, and newsletters. A sample size of around 1,000 for each of the surveys is planned (based on a 95% confidence interval and ±3% sampling error). Analyses will include descriptive statistics and thematic coding of open-ended survey questions. Subgroup samples, when large enough will look at differences in responses by demographic variables (e.g. race/ethnicity, household income, highest level of education in the household, an adult in the household with a STEM career, gender of child, geographic location). The researchers and Brains On! staff will work together to identify how the findings can be applied to the development of subsequent coronavirus-related episodes and shared with the ISE field to further support families? education and information needs.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.