Two new permanent exhibitions and a suite of parallel programs will transform the capacity of Victorian children to be prepared for a science and technology-led future.
The new experiences include:
• $2.5 million STEM exhibition for babies to 5-year-olds focused on construction to introduce small children to real world skills in an unreal space. Ground Up: Building Big Ideas, Together opens December 4th.
• $3.75 million immersive permanent exhibition for secondary school age and beyond, to engage young adults in science through revealing the invisible world of wave forms. Beyond Perception: Seeing the Unseen opens April 2018.
• workshops, outreach programs and professional development resources to support formal and informal STEM education across Victoria.
Museums Victoria is building these new experiences to meet the challenge of a future in which an increasing number of jobs will depend on STEM skills but enrolment in science and technology subjects at schools and universities is decreasing.
Australia’s international ranking for achievement of students in maths and science has declined over the past 10 years. Girls, in particular, are excluding themselves from advanced maths and women remain dramatically underrepresented in STEM fields, with only 14% of engineers and only 25% of information technology professionals.
Ground Up: Building Big Ideas, Together
Designed for and tested by young children, Scienceworks’ new permanent exhibition for babies to five-year-olds provides an engaging, playful and safe experience that builds foundational skills in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) through construction-play and creative experimentation.
Ground Up: Building Big Ideas, Together invites young children and adults to think, try and creatively problem solve. Experiences are designed to be intuitive, instruction-free and open-ended. Children and their carers can tinker, design, build and test with shapes, lights, balls, and large-scale imaginative machines. In this screen-free space technology skills are flexible and multi-dimensional.
The exhibition is divided into three broad age and activity zones. Children are welcome to move around the whole space but each zone develops skills and provides experiences designed for targeted stages of development.
- The Baby Landscape is a comfortable space, enclosed with a rolling mound to create a safe area for babies and crawlers. It features nooks and mounds for climbing, a moving overhead light display and spinners to enable the youngest scientists to investigate how different materials move in space.
- The Tinkering Zone for toddlers to 3 year-olds allows children to play in parallel with their peers without having to share or wait turns. Open-ended activities encourage children to experiment and test their ideas – creating contraptions to fly in wind tubes, stacking and sorting custom-made blocks on a colourful light table, and practicing foundational coding skills such as sequencing and critical thinking. A light-up switch wall develops fine motor skills and deductive thinking and a sensory-stimulating environment encourages exploration.
- The Collaborative Zone designed for 3 to 5 year-olds is an active, physical space where children use communication and social skills to solve problems and achieve goals. Using large-scale construction and simple machines, crews of children can work together and create big things. There is opportunity for both open-ended play and goal-oriented play in this space.
Visitors to Ground Up: Building Big Ideas, Together will spot Dot throughout the space – a curious, cheeky character whose name was inspired by geologist and palaeontologist Dr Dorothy Hill, the first female fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and a pivotal role model for encouraging women into tertiary science education in the late 1960s and early 1970s.