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 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 

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Guest Blog: Emily Goode

Science education Centres are creating Australia’s young innovators

As the Bendigo community decides whether to keep the Discovery Science and Technology Centre open, it may be pertinent to consider recent research on the impact of science centres and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, and their place in Australia’s technological and industrial future. This piece, written by Craig Cormick, originally appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 1 January, 2015.


Will building a hands-on science centre in outer Sydney lead to an increase in students in the area studying science and engineering, and, subsequently, an increase in innovation? It is an important question to ask before committing funds to the project.

Australia likes to pride itself on being an innovative nation but the reality is that the benchmark for innovation has moved a lot further beyond inventions such as the Hills Hoist, stump-jump ploughs or fencing wire solutions.

Building a science and innovation capability along with an entrepreneurial culture should be priorities for Australia.

To build a nation that values learning, science, technology and skills, a lot of attention has been placed on education in schools and ways to better teach, or increase participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Rather less attention has been placed on developing creativity, imagination and thinking skills.

STEM education in schools is important, of course, but we should also understand that a huge amount of scientific learning occurs outside of the limited school hours.

In a challenging article in American Scientist, US researchers John Falk and Lynn Dierking stated: “The ‘school first’ paradigm is so pervasive that few scientists, educators or policymakers question it. This, despite two important facts: average Americans spend less than 5 per cent of their life in classrooms, and an ever-growing body of evidence demonstrates that most science is learnt outside of school.”

While Australia is not America, the point is well made, and we need to remember that learning is lifelong, and much of the science and technology we learn at school will be increasingly out of date as we grow older.

A 2014 survey by the Australian National University shows that the three major ways that the Australian public engage with science is through: talking with friends and family (82 per cent), visiting a science centre or museum of other science-related place (66 per cent) and listening to a science debate or lecture (42 per cent).

This raises a crucial question as to where we should be putting our efforts if we really want to widely improve public understanding of science, technology and innovation. Australia needs a strong, informal learning sector working alongside school-based education.

Questacon, the National Science and Technology Centre, receives almost 430,000 visitors a year to its buildings in Canberra, and reaches out to another 560,000 people through its travelling programs. The most well-known program, the Shell Questacon Science Circus (approaching its 30th anniversary in 2015) visited more than 330 venues last financial year, covering 20,000 kilometres around Australia. And, vitally, prior to the Science Circus visiting these places, many of the residents in these communities had limited access to this kind of science exposure or interaction. Also, through national programs that are Questacon-led, such as National Science Week and Inspiring Australia, another 2 million people are reached.

These are significant numbers in anyone’s view, but another critical question for the dozen or so members of the science centre sector is: what impact are we having?

As science centres evolve,we need to make sure that we are having an effect. We need to know that we are not just measuring delight on the day, and know that the way people engage with us has a catalytic effect on increasing their interest in science, or even prompting them to consider scientific careers.

The International Science Centre Impact Study was commissioned by a consortium of 17 science centres (including Questacon) across 13 countries, and found that for both youth and adults, visiting a science centre significantly correlated with increased science and technology knowledge, as well as interest in science as a school subject.

In particular, the study found that visiting a science centre significantly correlated with increased confidence and curiosity in science as an out-of-school activity. Not surprisingly, the longer, and the more recent a science centre experience was, the stronger the correlations were.

This is not the first study that looked at the affect of informal science learning, but it is the first on this scale.

An earlier study undertaken by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) that is used to benchmark student levels in different countries, showed that a major predictor of high achievement on their test was having participated in out-of-school, free choice learning experiences, such as visits to science centres.

It is known from other research that attitudes to science careers are formed primarily outside of school time in early adolescence; the ages of 12 to 13 are critical for engaging people in science and keeping them, or losing them. Free choice learning experiences are the greatest contributors to adult science knowledge.

As the Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, has said: “We must align our scientific effort to the national interest; focus on areas of particular importance or need; and do it on a scale that will make a difference to Australia and a changing world.”

Dr Craig Cormick is a science communicator who has worked for CSIRO Education and Questacon. In 2014, he was awarded the Unsung Hero of Science Communication by the Australian Science Communicators.

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Science education Centres are creating Australia’s young innovators

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

Ways everyone can help

Look – even Crate Man wants us to #saveDiscovery!

Crate Man defends Discovery

If you want to help the campaign to save Bendigo’s Discovery Science and Technology Centre, there are a range of things you can do:

  • Support our crowdfunding campaign!  There are great rewards/perks available like family memberships (if you’re not already a member!), private Vertical Slide sessions or even a liquid nitrogen birthday party!
  • Buy a membership – all money raised through membership will go to the new management of Discovery.  You can pledge to buy a membership on the crowdfunding site OR you can buy one right now by visiting Discovery.
  • Get involved with social media!

You can also follow this blog, and share posts.

This blog is a place where people can share their stories and memories of Discovery, and explain why they think it’s important that the Centre stay open. If you’d like to contribute, please email manager@discovery.asn.au. Hope to hear from you!

Ways everyone can help