At Seed, curiosity is always rewarded. Since our inception we have looked toward culture—art, fashion, streetwear, music—to bring science and learning into the zeitgeist. We believe that the medium is the message when it comes to scientific communication and that friction is the future in the changing digital landscape.
In a year when a single microbe brought the world to a collective stop, humans became more and more divided, and the negative perception of microbes (99% of which are not harmful to humans) was at an all time high, we saw an opportunity to shift perspective on the interconnectedness of us all through the lens of microbes.
To do this, we took the formula from streetwear.
We’ve all witnessed it—the frantic rush to the latest drop from the fashion world. It's a first-come, first-served method that uses a formula of urgency, scarcity, and influence to amass crowds and dominate headlines. Originating from the streetwear community, this formula has been implemented everywhere—high fashion, album drops, even ice cream.
Our questions: Could the same thing be done for science? Could we make learning science as urgent (and exciting) as a sneaker drop? All while cultivating a deeper understanding of science (our body, our health, our planet) which came into sharper focus during 2020?
Partnering with sustainable streetwear designer Come Back as a Flower, we co-designed a limited-edition piece that could only be unlocked through learning to see if we could reignite a passion for science through a formula of hype.
Our experiment—could we make learning science as urgent (and exciting) as the next sneaker drop?
In 2020, the world was rapidly changing amidst a global pandemic, every system was shifting and changing, and we noticed that education was evolving, almost overnight.
Beyond people learning how to bake bread or memorizing TikTok dances, the school system itself was turning digital faster than expected. Kids were now responsible for logging on (and staying on), teachers and professors were not showing up to class, and parents were going back to school, relearning decades of forgotten knowledge in order to keep their children’s education moving forward. It seemed the system was inching steadily away from cultivating the next generation of inquiring minds.
Carl Sagan once said: “Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact,” but it struck a deeper cord in this changing world. School was shrinking into a 9:16 space in your home, but that also became an opportunity to raise the bar in learning and inspire humans to realize that everywhere—your bed, living room, backyard, refrigerator—could be a classroom.
So we wrote a story—about giant whispering trees, cheese bacteria highways, salmon isotopes inside trees, the billion-year old Internet under our feet—of the circularity and interconnectedness of the world through the lens of microbes. We scoured scientific papers, research, and articles to craft an at-home science class that people could touch, smell, feel, and taste—all through their phone from their home.
Seed's team researched, wrote, designed, storyboarded, and uploaded a 6-day Instagram learning experiment that journeyed through the invisible world of microbes coupled with hands-on learning, practical experimentation, and user-generated community science opportunities for adults and kids, alike, and then gamified it to reward curiosity with a limited-edition co-designed sweatshirt by Seed + Come Back as a Flower.
To unlock this drop, users had to finish one chapter each day, pass a final quiz at the end of each chapter to redeem a digit of a code, and submit their full code (6 digits total) during a drop window on Cyber Monday.
The sweatshirt itself—custom dyed and 100% sustainable—unlocked new learning experiences. With hidden messages printed on the inside, mathematical systems of viewing the world (the Powers of 10) along the sleeves, and an email address that led down deeper educational rabbit holes, our goal was a reiteration that learning is never finished and it can happen anywhere in the world.
(HOME)Room resulted in 500+ “graduates” submitting their code within the first five seconds of the drop window opening, with 1,300+ submissions total, showing our hypothesis was correct.
The experiment amassed 44.3M impressions, had a 90.4% completion rate, and 900+ unique UGC experiment submissions (for example: users had to submit photos of them smelling/tasting cheese, drawing, listening to trees, etc.). For earned media, (HOME)Room was covered by Complex, Baller Status, and Bustle as "anti-Black Friday" drops, and was shared by influencers like Karlie Kloss, Future Earth, Geri Hirsch, and more.
However, our best metric wasn't a number but a perspective shift. The course's last chapter dealt with the cessation of biological functions (or death) and how microbes can repurpose organic matter back into the Earth to continue to sustain life. To leave the loop open on our goal of circularity and interconnectedness, we asked users to answer an open-ended question: "Do you think, in some way, we can come ‘back’ as a flower?"
We received over 3,900 unique short essay responses that showed something much deeper than people trying to get a free sweatshirt: parents that got to interactively learn with their kids, teachers asking to use (HOME)Room for their classes, students reigniting their love of science, and other humans that were brought closer together through the awe-inspiring perspective of microbes while sheltering in place from one singular microbe.
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