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.
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”.
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.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org