Guest Post: Ailsa Wild

I first came to Bendigo Discovery Centre as part of a tiny independent theatre duo, Teacup Tumble. We had a touring show called It’s Not Circus, It’s Science which we’d made in Melbourne, performed in a village festival in NSW and were ready to take on the road. ‘Disco’ took a punt on us and we performed at the centre and toured our show to schools in the region.

Our show was utterly ridiculous. My character made stupid jokes about quarks, wore fake nerd glasses and seriously irritated her onstage colleague. The show also had the “Aha!” factor. We performed circus tricks to demonstrate the rules of physics – and the kids loved it.

Teacup Theatre

Until I had performed this show, I don’t think I understood what science engagement could be. How funny it could be. What a group of 250 cheering children engaging with science could look like.

The CEO of the Bendigo Trust dropped into our show ‘for five minutes’ then stayed for the whole show and congratulated us afterwards. We were thrilled.

After that Disco and Teacup Tumble made friends. Disco supported us to tour regional schools the following year, where we performed for hundreds of kids in tiny country schools. The year after that, Disco partnered with us to write a grant submission, which was successful. The grant enabled us to make another show, working with kids from Bendigo South East College. This was a class of kids with learning issues who struggled with simple maths concepts. They helped us come up with some of they key ideas for the show and then helped with the production elements of our performance.

This new show toured the region, to hundreds of children. I have two main memories of that tour. I remember performing in a small country school, where there were less than 30 kids. The staff were just so grateful to have an affordable, high quality incursion to the school – which (considering that the families split the costs) is usually impossible.

I also remember the endlessly friendly generosity of the Bendigo Discovery Centre. The use of the auditorium for rehearsals meant we had a home base throughout the development and tour (and somewhere to make cups of tea). As an independent artist who makes theatre in rent-by-the-hour rehearsal spaces or even in my loungeroom, I am so grateful for the support the Bendigo Discovery Centre offered us.

I could tell our shows were valued in the Bendigo community, from the gorgeous emails from kids, the thanks from the teachers, and the roars of laughter while we performed.

Partnering with artists is only one of the many ways Bendigo Discovery Centre works with its community, but it’s the one I have seen first-hand. I hope such partnerships can continue for years to come.


Want to help Discovery survive – and thrive! – into the future? You can contribute to our crowdfunding campaign here.

If you have a story about Discovery you’d like to share, please email manager@discovery.asn.au.

Guest Post: Ailsa Wild

Guest Post: Phil Spark

Today’s guest post is written by Phil Spark, Discovery’s Education Officer.


I first heard about Discovery when our family moved back to Bendigo from Sydney in 2000 and my sister, who had a family membership, invited my wife, our children and me to a visit Discovery with them. Being an astrophysicist, a science teacher and a university lecturer, I was in my element as soon as I walked in the door. All aspects of the Centre “pushed my buttons”, from the Planetarium which covered my love of astronomy and spaceflight, to the Vertical Slide which shows gravity in action, to the hands on exhibits that allows visitors to explore science in their own way in their own time.

Two curious kids at Discovery

In 2005, I was fortunate enough to commence as a staff member of this fun-tastic place where I conduct Planetarium shows, throw people down the Vertical Slide, mess around in The Lab with schools and generally interact with visitors throughout the Exhibits areas. The greatest reward from working at Discovery is the interaction with people as they explore things they may have been familiar with in a new way and seeing the “light come on”.

A Curious Kid in action

The biggest reason as to why I love Discovery so much and why it is a vital facility for the community is our Curious Kids program. Curious Kids, which is held on the first and third Mondays (and the following day as well), is for children aged 3 to 5 years and their carers. As the facilitator and presenter of the program I get to read a story to the attendees and then we explore a science concept that is related to the story in some way. Just being able to watch the interaction between the children and their carers and to facilitate these ‘Oh Wow!’ moments is priceless. No monetary value can be placed on these times together but Bendigo and the world would be a much poorer place without The Discovery Centre being able to provide these experiences for  everyone.


If you’d like to help keep Discovery open, click here.

If you have a story about Discovery you’d like to share, contact manager@discovery.asn.au – but do it fast, because our campaign ends on 31 July 2015.

Guest Post: Phil Spark

Guest Post: Teagan Brown

Hi my name is Teagan Brown. I am a proud Bendigo local, studying a science based PhD at La Trobe University here in Bendigo and I have worked at the Discovery Science and Technology Centre for over six years now.

I have been interested in science from a young age and I fondly remember visiting Discovery as a child. I was so captivated… how many cool things can they fit into one building? It was for me a realm of new investigation and quite literally Discovery, all of which is available in our own backyard.

It was the first year of my Bachelor of Science when an advert circulated at university seeking casual employees for the centre. This was the most awesome prospect ever and it seemed like the ideal first job for me given the scientific nature of the place! I couldn’t wait to become a member of the team that actually was responsible for inspiring the next generation of scientists, so luckily I got the job!

I love the place as much now as the first day I started. There is something really special about engaging in a persons’ uncovering of the world. There is also never a ‘dull’ day at Discovery, children mastering their fears of the vertical slide, enjoying the wonders of space in the planetarium and the awe of the exhibits and science workshops.

There is science in everything that we do day-to-day and it is the underlying reasoning of how and why a lot of things work. It is often taken for granted just how much a science background can shape your life. It is the kind of subject that you learn but can always find out more about. The centre helps children and the local community to harvest their natural curiosity and further understand the world around them. Critical thinking of the world and its happenings is crucial, especially in childhood development promoting lifelong learning, so the Discovery centre is more than just a cool place to go, it actually helps the wealth of our society.  #saveDiscovery

The author with two other Discovery staffTeagan Brown is in the middle of this pic

Do you have a story about Discovery you’d like to share? Contact manager@discovery.asn.au – we’d love to hear from you!

You can help to keep Discovery alive by supporting our crowdfunding campaign. Crowdfunding is all about connections, so please spread the word among your friends, family and networks that Discovery is worth saving, and contributing to the campaign is a concrete way to help! Thanks in advance.

Guest Post: Teagan Brown

Guest Post: Punching above your weight

Today’s guest post was written by David Holmes.


I started as the Manager at Discovery at the start of 2013. Prior to getting the job here at Discovery, I had worked in a variety of education roles at Museum Victoria, Melbourne Aquarium, and Melbourne Zoo. The Discovery Centre is tiny in comparison to those organisations, but one thing was immediately clear to me: it sure knows how to punch above its weight. Those involved with Discovery over the years can rightfully be proud of what has been achieved with a very modest budget and minimal staff.

One of the earliest glimpses I had of Discovery’s ability to do a lot with a little came from a conversation I had with one of our workshop staff, Jim McGregor. I had recently seen a travelling science exhibition called ‘Playing With Light’ created by the Scitech science centre in Perth, where my favourite exhibit had been a wall of photoluminescent material that allowed you to ‘freeze’ your shadow when a light opposite flashed. I was delighted to learn that the Discovery Centre had just the same exhibit- ‘Frozen Shadows’, and that it had been built in-house. I asked Jim about it, and he proudly told me that he knew for a fact that the Scitech exhibit would have cost somewhere in the region of $15,000 to build, but that using a combination of donated and secondhand materials, he had built our exhibit for only $400. Sure, our exhibit doesn’t have the same polish as Scitech’s, but the effect is the same, and visitors absolutely love it.

That’s not to say that everything at Discovery is about making do with modest budgets. Another area in which we punch above our weight has been our success with grant money. Thanks to shrewd grant applications, Discovery boasts a professional Planetarium dome, bathroom and kitchen facilities to accommodate school sleepovers, a newly-renovated Lab Workshop, and energy efficient lighting, air conditioning and passive cooling treatments for the building. The list goes on. These all came about with investment from government and philanthropic funds: $1.5 million in successful grant funding over the last 10 years: not bad for a little science centre in Bendigo, eh? It would be a shame to see this investment go to waste.

Finally, if you want bang for your buck then consider the reach that Discovery’s programs have: we only employ the equivalent of 5 full time positions, but we get visits from 10,000 students a year from schools across Victoria (and beyond). We have close to 20,000 public visitors a year on top of this. We develop and deliver Planetarium shows, Science Shows, Lab Workshops, Holiday Programs, Teacher Professional Development, Birthday Parties, Sleepovers and special events. All of this happens through the hard work and dedication of a handful of very passionate staff and volunteers.

If you like the sound of an organisation punching above its weight, then please get behind our crowdfunding campaign, and chip in a donation of whatever size you’d like. Not only do we need the funds right now to keep operating in the short term, but a big contribution from the community would send a very loud message that we value the Discovery Centre, and that it deserves some long-term funding security.


If you would like to contribute a post to this blog, please contact manager@discovery.asn.au

Family holding saveDiscovery sign

Guest Post: Punching above your weight

Guest Blog: Emily Goode

My name is Emily Goode and I am currently Voluntary Explainer at the Discovery Science & Technology Centre. I first started volunteering at the Discovery Centre in 2013, as a VCE student at Bendigo Senior Secondary College. This was when the volunteer-run school holiday activities became a regular part of the Discovery’s program. I am now completing my Bachelor of Civil Engineering (Honours) at Latrobe University Bendigo; I truly believe that without the Discovery Centre giving me the backing and confidence in science and engineering, I would not be on such a male-dominated career path.

When I was approached about writing a post about why Discovery should stay open and how it has personally affected me, my first instinct was to do some research on primary school science. The Discovery Centre plays an important role in exposing children to science, to aspects which they may not get in class. An average child (pre-school to year 6) has 1.1 to 1.8 hours of science per a week1. This is particularly sad as this only makes up 3-6% of the school week – but Discovery fills part of that hole in children’s science education. The Discovery Centre is also important as it has science and lab faculties for students to use to give them a chance to experience scientific lab techniques and perform experiments; only 18% of public primary schools have all or most lab faculties (24% for independent schools)2. For regional students, Discovery is sometimes their only chance to experience hands on learning; these statistics above just show the lack science in the classroom.

Discovery is also a great place for younger people to see a range of sciences and have a gender-neutral experience within science. Discovery’s exhibits cover a large range of different sciences without being marketed at a particular gender; and this gender bias is still largely present – it’s easy to see toys that relate to physics and engineering are marketed at boys. This is important to me as a young woman studying engineering – every child should have the change to try every science without noting gender bias. That is one of reasons why I volunteer at the Centre. I want to encourage and help children regardless of gender to learn about science, just as the staff at Discovery helped me grow into my science-loving self. They gave me and many other girls the encouragement we needed. We discovered that just because we weren’t male didn’t mean we couldn’t do more than just teach it – we could be scientists, engineers, programmers or anything else we wanted.

Discovery inspires children to become innovative and think creatively about tasks. I am a firm believer that people learn best when they have to work out the process for themselves and can play with the exhibits. Discovery is renowned as being very hands-on compared to other science education centres; this is often mentioned to me by visitors in the Centre. This creative interaction with exhibits encourages the next generation of inventors – those people that will make big changes to society, lead to the creation of jobs, and discover more effective ways to complete everyday tasks. Numerous children and teenagers are scared off by the stereotype of science being solely note-taking and hard – something many science classes have sadly become; Discovery, however, shows the fun and excitement in science, and this undoubtedly motivates more children to get into a field which is in need of young people’s minds.

To end this post, I would like to say that the debate about Discovery’s future shouldn’t be about its closure, but how much more funding it should get. Thanks for reading this post and thank you, Discovery, for helping me and so many children to reach our scientific potential.


If you have a story about Discovery that you’d like to share on this campaign blog, please email manager@discovery.asn.au 

IMG_2640

Guest Blog: Emily Goode

Guest Post: Newton

Today’s guest post comes from Newton, the Discovery centre cat.


Newton

I’m Newton, Supreme Investigator of All Things Scientific (by day) and Mighty Defender of Discovery (by night). If you want to be species-ist, I suppose you might be interested in my feline heritage, but – quite frankly – I find that sort of talk distasteful. I may have fur and a tail, and of course my trademark cheesy grin, but I’m just as curious and inquisitive as the rest of you tailless folk!

A woman called Catie asked me to write a guest post for this blog. I had been going to refuse, but she offered me cream; how could I resist?

Apparently, there’s been some talk of Discovery closing. Obviously, this isn’t going to happen, as no-one has consulted me on the matter.

Still, it got me to thinking: what would a world without Discovery be like? I chatted to my mate the Giant Ant about it.

We felt a little sad, at first, discussing this remote but disturbing possibility. Then we started working through the implications.

For a start, there would be less birthday cake around here. This is Not A Good Thing. (The G.A. agrees with me on this point.) There’d be no more experimenting in the lab, fewer joyous laughs, and none of those breathless “wow!” moments when someone’s mind is blown. Discovery is a place where people can explore the mysteries of the world: there’s something pretty magical about that, isn’t there?

I know that what goes up must come down, but I don’t think it’s time for Discovery to come down yet. This is why I’m so happy that folk are coming together to keep it open, with this crowdfunding thing. (Catie told me to plug it. There, woman, you can stop nagging me now!)

I’m almost out of time (I heard a rumour of cheese in the workshop) but I remembered a few lines from my favourite book, “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr Seuss. If anyone were to consider closing Discovery – and, as I said, my consent has not yet been sought – then perhaps the people of Bendigo might find themselves a little like my favourite character:

so we sat in the house.
we did nothing at all.

so all we could do was to
sit!
   sit!
      sit!
         sit!
and we did not like it.
not one little bit.

As Catie would say, please help us to #saveDiscovery!


The #saveDiscovery crowdfunding campaign passed the halfway point yesterday, which means we’ve already raised over $15,000 of the $30,000 needed by the end of July to keep Discovery open. Great work, team!

Guest Post: Newton

Guest Post: Tom Seddon

Today’s guest blog post is by Tom Seddon. Enjoy!


About Tom

The Bendigo Trust, where I was CEO from June 2005 to last November, was my third career.  It came after years of developing investment funds and then serving as director of a pair of international scientific conferences in 2001 and 2004.  The Trust was my “tree change”. I particularly liked the variety of the job: tackling groundwater control problems that threatened Central Deborah (and much else besides) in the morning might be followed by a meeting with engineers from Yarra Trams on the new “W8” standard for City Circle trams.  In the afternoon I could be writing a grant application or project acquittal for Discovery and then visiting the old gasworks with someone from the Institution of Engineers.  Without any of the workshop, tramway, Central Deborah or Discovery the role — which I loved — would have been materially diminished for me.

I’m proud of what we accomplished during my time at the Trust: Tram Depot restoration and development; reopening the tram workshop (which is now almost too busy); Bendigo Tramways own vehicles restored and Melbourne trams given over to fun interpretations like the Jimmy Possum and the Schaller Studio trams; opening Central Deborah’s first new tour in 20 years, Nine Levels (and doing it for pocket change); putting the Joss House back in order.
However the biggest changes probably came at Discovery. We put in air conditioning; cool roof skylight and window treatments; showers for school sleepovers; LED lighting, new cabling, phone and data systems.  We built and borrowed exhibits, built The Lab and Kaleidoscope and transformed the planetarium.  We brought back science shows and holiday activities, took Discovery to Rosalind Park and Lake Weeroona, to the Showgrounds and to Eaglehawk’s Dahlia Festival.  And made modest steps into school classrooms.
This work showed up in our visitor statistics, which doubled to 30,000 per year.  By the way, that’s a higher percentage of the population within an hour’s drive of Bendigo than Scienceworks’ 450,000 annual visitors is of the population within an hour’s drive of Melbourne!
Is there more to be done? Always.  The staff have no shortage of ideas for exhibits to build.  I have a few myself, like the fire tornado I saw at the centre in Sheffield, England, or a double-helix observation tower that would put Discovery on the city skyline.
Discovery has an obvious place in Bendigo: it has a role to play in educating children (and adults) in central and northern Victoria: learning is a lifelong activity and we often do it best in interactive settings rather than by reading a book.  It has a role in being a part of a lively city that is attractive to new residents and useful (and, as we’ve recently seen, a source of pride) for current ones; it bolsters the city’s claim to being an education city.  It provides obvious partnership opportunities between the Council, La Trobe, local businesses and the Victorian government.
It’s fun as well.
The way the decision to jettison Discovery was executed hasn’t flattered either the Trust or Council. But perhaps it has been good for Discovery, which has seen the biggest outpouring of community support since a thousand people turned up on Discovery’s 10th birthday in October 2005.  I’m very glad that there is now pretty certain to be a 20th birthday later this year!
I encourage every Bendigo family to take out membership at Discovery, and for everyone else there’s plenty for you to enjoy as well so please consider joining too, supporting the Centre with a small donation, or even getting involved!

Do you have memories about Discovery you’d like to share in a guest post? Email manager@discovery.asn.au

Woman and child with Save Discovery sign

Guest Post: Tom Seddon