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.

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Guest Post: Phil Spark

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 

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Guest Blog: Emily Goode

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

Guest Post: Brandon Hocking

Today, Save Discovery is proud to bring you the first of our guest blog posts. Enjoy!


Brandon holding a #saveDiscovery sign

Hi my name is Brandon.  I’m 14 years of age and I’m in year 8 at Bendigo South East College. Last year I was part of a project at Discovery to learn about maths.  We made a show called “Dimensional” that looked at geometry. We learned about shapes and angles and other geometry.  It was really fun and interesting doing all the activities to make the show, and then I got to be part of the show and come on stage and illustrate some stuff about angles.

We did the show to help kids learn about shapes and angles in an interesting way. Because it’s fun and interesting they don’t even realise they’re learning stuff.  I think it was really fun for the audience, but it was just as much fun for me and my friends to be part of the show. I felt happy and proud that I could do that [be part of the show].  My cousin came along, and my aunty, and my Mum and Dad and they all really liked it.

It helped me get into Bendigo and help out and volunteer.  After that project I came and volunteered at Discovery during the school holidays.  One of the activities was making marble runs: you had to try and make a marble run down a wall using pieces that join up and fit together to make a path. My job was to help visitors have a go of the marble runs.  At first people were really shy but then you’d start and they would really get into it and enjoy it and they stayed for an hour or so.

Through being part of Dimensional and volunteering at Discovery I can understand how Discovery can motivate kids to learn about science and technology and how things work.  There’s lots of things at Discovery like this, and since I have been at the Discovery Centre I have learnt heaps of stuff too, not just about maths, but about electricity and how electricity flows and things like that.

My mum was saying we don’t have many things in Bendigo like this, so I hope that Discovery is saved so that younger kids can come and learn about science and technology.  There’s lots of exhibits around the centre.  I like the racing car exhibit.  I like the vertical slide, even though I’ve never been on it!  It’s different to a normal slide – it’s massive and it drops straight down.  All the kids love it.

I hope that the Discovery stays open for the next generation of kids.


Do you have a Discovery story to share? Email manager@discovery.asn.au

Guest Post: Brandon Hocking