Discovery: Bendigo’s link to something larger

I’ve always loved the symbolism of Discovery’s building, which was once part of Central Victoria’s railway system. Railways link people and places, and Discovery, being an interactive science and technology centre, links people with the concepts and wonder of science: how appropriate!

Discovery, as Bendigo’s own science centre, connects the city to exciting science communication initiatives on Australian shores and further afield. There are some amazing, innovative projects out there.

For instance, young migrants from refugee and disadvantaged backgrounds are able to access science engagement opportunities in Australia through Opening Doors. The Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science also offers science centre workshops in Indonesia and a science circus in South Africa, in partnership with Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre.

Bendigo has already encountered science theatre through Teacup Tumble, which schools and the public could enjoy last year. Kinda Thinky is a different sort of science communication event, which its creators say “has a dedication to leave no evidence-based stone unturned and no juvenile joke unsaid”.

Research into matters relating to science communication abounds. Projects about science, health and television, twitter and GM food have been completed, while sadly one investigating fan perceptions of the gender and power dynamics between the Doctor and Zoe and Romana (from BBC’s Doctor Who) failed to gather sufficient data to draw significant conclusions.

In Discovery’s early days, some staff attended a science communication conference in Helsinki. In fact, I’d love to get a world map and put pins in science centres past and present staff have visited globally – perhaps that’s an idea for Discovery’s 20th birthday party later this year!

The Heureka Science Center in Finland
The Heureka Science Center in Finland

However you choose to look at it, science communication is most certainly a “thing”, and Discovery can be seen as the focal point of Bendigo’s connection to that global discipline.

All the more reason to keep Discovery open, right?

Has Discovery made a difference to your life? Feel free to contact if you’d like your story to be included in this blog.

As this is the last week of our crowdfunding campaign, please pledge your support if you haven’t done so already, and please help us to get as many people on board as possible! You can hit the big red button below to help us reach our target:


Discovery: Bendigo’s link to something larger

Exciting news: stretch target!

Thanks to the support of people like you, dear reader, the #saveDiscovery crowdfunding campaign has been doing well! As I type this post, we’ve passed the $26,000 mark, out of the $30,000 we needed to help Discovery survive: Save Discovery $26k mark Being tantalisingly close to attaining our “what we need to survive” goal, we’ve taken a bold step: we’re introducing a “stretch target”. Yes, that’s right: we’re daring to dream that Discovery may not only survive the next twelve months, but may also continue to grow! Brave Audacious Stupid

We think that, with the continued support of yourself and people like you, we should be able to reach our original $30,000 goal. What we are now hoping is that we can also raise a further $6,000 to create a new invertebrate enclosure at Discovery. The minibeast zone will provide long-time Discovery resident the Giant Ant with some friends! The fancy new invertebrate enclosure will contain a few sticky friends to live with the Giant Ant, as well as some preserved specimens and magnifying glasses so you can get really up close and personal with some creepy crawlies. Add to that our meat ant farm we built last year PLUS a new indoor-grass floor covering, and you’ve got a whole minibeast zone to explore!

But wait theres moreBecause we’re asking for more, we’re offering more. Famous science communicator Dr Karl has kindly contributed eight signed books to the #saveDiscovery campaign, and these are now available as part of our crowdfunding efforts:

Dr Karl Rewards

So (you may be asking) what can I do? Well, first of all, we need to be sure to reach our original, essential target of $30,000; so if you’ve been meaning to contribute, but haven’t yet done so, today is the day to turn those intentions into actions – or even indulge yourself with an extra reward from the fantastic selection on offer! Now that we’re on the home stretch, entering the last week of this campaign, it’s more important than ever to spread the word to friends, family and random strangers about what Discovery is going to achieve and the wonderful perks people can choose from.

We’ve got this far because of the generosity and support of people like yourself. Thank you! But remember – our campaign ends next Friday 31 July. During this last week, it’s important to gather as much support as we can, from far and wide. 

Thanks again for your continued support. We couldn’t have come this far without you!

Exciting news: stretch target!

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.


Science education Centres are creating Australia’s young innovators

Those big, green digits

I’ve been staring at these big, green digits for the past 24 hours, willing them to click over $15k (the halfway mark), and they’ve stubbornly refused to do so.

Oh, you don’t know which big, green digits I’m referring to? These ones:

Save Discovery big green digits

Yes, I mean those figures in the top right hand corner of the screenshot, that say how much money has been pledged to the campaign so far. They’re on my computer screen. They’re in my dreams. They dance before my eyes. They’re everywhere!

Remember how I mentioned the emotions involved in crowdfunding? Upon reflection, I neglected one very important emotional emotional state: heartache.

I don’t know anyone who’s started a crowdfunding campaign who hasn’t truly, deeply cared about the outcome. I’ve met people who’ve crowdfunded films, alcoholic drinks, non-alcoholic drinks, clothes, social enterprises, events, small business expansion, charitable works, sanitary pads, stationery, and even fashion shows. (For people with intellectual disability, from outback Australia.) What I saw in each of these project creators was a willingness not only to put time and effort into their campaigns, but also to put their heart on the line.

I guess this is how I feel about the #saveDiscovery campaign. I really care about whether Discovery stays open or not! – and I know the $30,000 we’re raising is necessary for that to occur.

I know I’m not the only person who cares passionately about whether Discovery continues to operate or not. If you care, too, there are many things you can do; and one of the most important of those things is to contribute to our campaign.

OK, enough spruiking already! It’s time to get on with my day job. But I’ll just take one more peek at those big, green digits … oh. No movement since last time.

Remind me: why we do this to ourselves? To Save Discovery, of course!

[Editor’s note: If we do get over the $15k mark in the next little while, it will be a huge achievement; we’re only 11 days into a month-long campaign, so to achieve 50% of the target this early would be remarkable!]

Those big, green digits

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 Hope to hear from you!

Ways everyone can help

Crowdfunding is not for the faint-hearted!

It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? You have a cause you believe in; plenty of other people have told you they’ll chip in; you’ll set up the website, hit “launch”, and – voila! You’ll have the money to do what needs to be done.

If only! The crowdfunding process is rarely so simple.

Some people find it difficult to define their cause in a manner which resonates with the public. Sometimes rewards are difficult to source, or the vision of a campaign video you have in your head doesn’t translate well to screen.

And then there’s the waiting.

The team behind the #saveDiscovery crowdfunding campaign crafted a great campaign, created an awesome video and have amassed tempting rewards (check out the new Science of Chocolate event!) – but still there’s the waiting.

  • The campaign site is top of your most-visited list.
  • You find yourself staring at the Total Amount Raised figure, willing it to click over.
  • Your browser asks if you’d like to make “” your home page, because you’ve been spending so much time there lately.
  • You don’t sleep; or, if you do sleep, large green digits showing the amount pledged so far stalk your dreams. (Want to know what those digits look like? Click here to see for yourself!)
  • You become really, really good at subtracting amounts from $30,000 to see how much more you need to raise.

Sometimes you feel hope: surely, surely we will reach our goal!

Sometimes you feel despair: why did you embark on this journey in the first place?

Sometimes you experience a flash of elation: another pledge! Huzzah!

However, when it comes down to it, crowdfunding is all about the waiting. Actually, that’s not quite right: it’s about the waiting, and your connections.

Let’s face it, if organizations could spend large amounts of money on an advertising campaign, they probably wouldn’t – or perhaps even shouldn’t! – be crowdfunding. Almost by definition, crowdfunders don’t have a lot of cash to splash on reaching their potential audience. This is where personal connections can be so important: not only the connections of the people running the campaign, but the connections of those other people who also believe in it.

The people working on the #saveDiscovery campaign have reached out to Discovery visitors, well-wishers who supplied their details, people who follow Discovery and Save Discovery online, and those who’ve seen, read or heard interviews with key people in the media, and will continue to do so. I guess those are the “one degree of separation” audience.

What would be really wonderful is if our “one degree of separation” folk could reach out to their connections: share their passion for Discovery, tell friends and family about the awesome rewards on offer, explain how a pledge as small as $5 could mean the difference between saving Discovery … or the alternative.

Well, that’s my ten cents’ worth for today. I’m just going to head over to the campaign website and stare at those green digits for a while. Beautiful green digits … scary green digits … please move … green digits … (see you when I emerge from my trance!)

Another save Discovery pic

Crowdfunding is not for the faint-hearted!

Interview with Catie Morrison, former Discovery staff member

When did you work for Discovery? 

I started before Discovery opened in 1995, and stayed on as one of the two Visitor Services Managers for a few years.

What did you do?

Heaps of stuff! That’s one reason I loved working for Discovery. I worked with volunteers, trainees, and other paid staff; did science shows, and took outreach programs to schools, the most notable being the Coliban Water show which was a lot of fun (despite getting quite wet and cold some days!). We designed special programs for senior, TAFE courses and VCE groups, as well as primary and secondary students. I even went firewalking for Discovery – twice!

I remember that we were gearing up for the Megaslime holiday feature when my sister was visiting from interstate. I was making slime of various colours and will never forget her face when she saw my kitchen – slime galore …

Of course, Discovery didn’t have air conditioning back then, and I hadn’t realized that slime becomes less viscous with heat. We were sure to store those tiny plastic containers upright after finding a rainbow puddle one day!

Do you have a favourite Discovery memory? 

Gosh, so many. I don’t think I can pick just one. I was just so proud of Discovery and what we were doing there! Earlier this week, I had dinner with a friend I hadn’t seen since those days. She remembered me showing her around Discovery and described how happy and proud I looked.

Why were you so proud of Discovery? 

Growing up in a small town, I’ve always been a keen advocate for regional Australia, and Discovery was the first interactive science centre based in a regional city. I was proud to be a part of that. I really admired the vision Bendigo City Council and others had, of housing a new science centre in a heritage listed building. I loved the building – even with its heat during summer, and all the dust that Noel would vacuum up each morning! I was proud of the partnerships with other organisations, industry and business that our Director, Peter Comiskey, was able to negotiate. I was proud that we could take on trainees and help them gain valuable skills. I could keep going, but for the sake of brevity I’ll stop there!

Do you think Discovery should be saved? 

Absolutely. It’s always much harder to build something up than to close it down.

How are you supporting the #saveDiscovery campaign? 

I’m doing pro bono work for Discovery, advising on their crowdfunding campaign and the publicity around it, supporting the campaign on social media and managing this blog.

What would you like to say to other people? 

Please help the team to save Discovery! Contribute to the crowdfunding campaign, share its link ( as much as you can on social media, talk to your friends and family, and visit the Centre if you haven’t been down for a while. You can get your picture taken with the #saveDiscovery sign, take some flyers for your neighbours, ring up the local radio station – get creative!

Catie Morrison Headshot

Interview with Catie Morrison, former Discovery staff member