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The Story of SciTech

I’m a great believer that scientific literacy is something that everyone should have.

When SciTech opened in 1989 I was really interested because, to me, SciTech would be a place where kids could go and they’d have wild exciting fun and then they’d go back to school and the poor old science teacher didn’t have the same facilities, the same freedom that kids have when they run around at SciTech, and they’d have to really do the bread and butter science while SciTech was able to do the jam and cream, if you like.  And so I started, in 1991, I started working…I started in the CSIRO Science Lab which is here, um, looking at how teachers brought their kids in, what the kids did here and so on.  Since that time I’ve done quite a number of research programmes here at SciTech, looking at how kids use exhibits, what they learn from exhibits, how their parents work with them, to some extent how the SciGuides, the people who work at SciTech on the floor, how they work with them.  I’ve also worked in local museums, looked at traveling science shows and outreach programmes.  So I’ve done quite a lot of background work, and what captures you in those findings is that kids love to do it.  Whether it translates into a science career down the track I don’t think that matters.  

I think what schools, and places like SciTech particularly, are able to do is to give kids a repertoire, if you like, of science experiences, so that when they leave school, when they leave SciTech, when they go out into the world a bit more by themselves, even if they don’t study science, this repertoire of science experiences that they’ve accumulated gives them the basic building blocks to understand things that happen in their world that are science-related.  So in a way it’s kind of the building blocks for science literacy.  Because I’m a great believer that scientific literacy is something that everyone should have so that they…at least to the extent so that they can read or hear a news story in the media and have some understanding of what it means, and what it means to them and if there’s something they can do about it, what it is that they can do.

Science is one of those things that really is about answering questions.  Science is answering interesting questions, if you like.  One of the great things that teachers…one of the great things parents should be doing before their kids even get to school, is asking their child questions and teaching their children how to ask questions; I’ve got new grandchildren who are about…they’re twins, who are about 14 months old and when they were visiting some time ago, because unfortunately they live in England which is a bit far away to visit often, we brought them into SciTech and sat them down in ‘Discover Land’ and they just had such an amazing time and at that stage they were only just one year old but they just had such a time exploring and looking and trying and doing things.  And that’s what kids love to do.

Check out elsewhere in the Special Topics section to see what happened when puppet Robin & Brian paid a visit to SciTech