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.
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