City gauges scientific interest

NANAIMO: Demand for hands-on science education for kids is growing.

If attendance in summer programs is any indication, demand for hands-on science education for kids has never been greater in the Nanaimo area.

“It’s been phenomenal,” said Liz DeMattia, executive director of the Nanaimo Science and Sustainability Society. “We’ve had as many as 100 children a day join our Drop-In Science in the Park programs at neighbourhood playgrounds throughout the city this past summer.”

Since the society was started in 2010 it involved local scientists and educators, held visioning workshops for community stakeholders, achieved charitable donation status, launched a summer science education program and most recently received approval in principle to develop a plan for a science centre in Bowen Park.

Nanaimo Parks, Recreation and Culture is now conducting an on-line survey to gather public input into the proposed science centre at Bowen Park.

The survey will continue until after an open house on the proposed facility, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 8, next to the Bowen Park lower picnic shelter (next to possible location for the new centre).

“It’s about having an interactive science facility that would benefit our community’s children and families,” said Diana Johnstone, chairwoman of the parks and rec commission.

“It could be a major attraction for School District 68 but before we proceed we need to hear what the public has to say.”

The initial plans for the Bowen Park facility draw on other successful science centres based in Vancouver, Kamloops and Vernon.

For DeMattia, who resides in Nanaimo, teaches biology at Vancouver Island University and has a family, it’s all about having a safe, inviting place for families, children and people of all ages to discover through science the natural world.

She points out that kindergarten to Grade 7 classes don’t have designated science teachers – some don’t even have microscopes. With a dedicated science centre, kids will get an interactive experience, dig in the mud and have a warm, dry place to see the samples they’ve collected under a microscope to learn about biology.

The project has the full support of the Young Professionals of Nanaimo.

“One of the YPN’s goals is to make Nanaimo a better place to live, work, and play,” said Leif Bogwald, president. “We feel that the [society’s] proposed science centre will be a valuable asset to our community both in the way of attracting scientists and tourists, but also by helping to develop an interest in science for people both young and old.”

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