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The RockEDU Science Outreach team at The Rockefeller University expanded its outreach, bringing local K-12 students and their teachers together with some of the world’s greatest scientific minds with the launch of RockEDU Online (https://rockedu.rockefeller.edu), a new website designed by C&G Partners. RockEDU Science Outreach was established by The Rockefeller University in 1992 to connect scientifically-minded high-school students to mentored research opportunities and has evolved to offer year-round science opportunities to students. Operating through the lens of social justice, the program offers New York City-based students—often from disadvantaged communities—the opportunity to work side-by-side in University labs with the institution’s world-renowned scientists, including past winners of Nobel Prizes in science.
With the new RockEDU Online website, the University has extended this unique learning experience to the world outside of New York, making the program available to learners and teachers globally in order to foster a stronger connection with science and the role it plays in our society.
C&G Partners, which has worked on a number design projects for the University in recent years, first conducted focus groups with teachers to understand their true needs and opted for a “cool but simple” and flexible structure and brand identity. The design had to be engaging but not dumbed down, and suitable for multiple audiences with wide-ranging levels of experiences and skills, including scientists, teachers, students, and outreach professionals. To that end, the site was designed to help scientists create exciting scientific experiences that are tailored to the minds of students. It also enables teachers to discover creative science experiences for their classes, and provides students with ways to explore science using only supplies found at a local corner store. RockEDU Online presents a trove of resources for teachers, students, and scientists. The central challenge of site design was to craft a structure that teachers could easily browse and find content that is applicable to their setting, and would also open doors to extensive and customizable content. This was achieved through a centralized “Teaching Resource Center” with carefully crafted filters and searches, to enable teachers to find resources that fit their precise needs. The customized content structure allows teachers to dig into the areas of the content that interests them, and then download documents, save them to Google Drive, or share them on Google Classroom. Site branding, identity color scheme and iconography are all derived from scientific notation, including a bright and fluorescent gamma often present in lab experiments. From hot pink to electric blue, we chose the bold and vibrant colors that youth flock to—and that traditional science education have avoided. To educators, the palette would evoke colors producible in scientific experiments. The design shapes are inspired by scientific notation. No mere decoration, they earn their space by providing a function: from circles enclosing menu elements to arrows directing users through the various steps of the experiments.
We played up the ‘geek factor’ of the scientific environment, but also made sure the site was engaging and easily usable to people of any age. This design makes the scientific and teaching content accessible without dumbing it down. Nothing is superficial or decorative; everything serves both form and function. Educators are the primary target audience for the website, particularly K-12 teachers who might not have a lot of resources. RockEDU Online allows teachers in underprivileged areas to bring fresh perspectives and scientific ideas to their classrooms, connect their students with one of the best research institutions in the world, and hopefully inspire the great scientific minds of tomorrow. Social good was at the forefront of the project.
Inspired by scientific structures, C&G Partners also designed the logo for the identity. Composed of an ever-branching, circular pattern, it visually reflects an organization that facilitates academic and intellectual outreach, growth, and future discovery.
The recently launched website is still in its early stages and does not have any data to provide results. However, it was greatly appreciated by teachers, scientists, and students during the launch events.