Science fun heats up summer

Nanaimo society strives for a science centre in Bowen Park.

How high can a flea jump? How many bones in the human body? How much does a newborn blue whale weight? All questions with a common denominator – science.

And if the Nanaimo Science and Sustainability Society reaches its goal of a science centre in Bowen Park, more fun facts will be available to children and their families.

The group’s mission is to inspire families and develop their interest in science and sustainability through hands-on learning.

“We’re all about kids, science and fun,” said Liz DeMattia, society executive director.

The group’s goal is twofold – a Science in the Park outreach program for July and August, and the science centre.

Partnering with Nanaimo’s parks, recreation and culture department and Vancouver’s Science World, the society is heading in the right direction.

“We’re working with the city’s summer playground program from July 2 to August 24,” said DeMattia. “We won’t be there every day, but will be providing some science education.”

The programs – planned for Harewood Mining Community water park on Howard Avenue, Mansfield Park on Blythe Avenue, Deverill Park on Haliburton Street and Pawson Park on Franklyn Street – received a boost Tuesday as the society held a knowledge-mobilization workshop featuring Science World staff and science experts from Vancouver Island University, the Pacific Biological Station, environmental groups, engineering firms and more.

“The idea is to brainstorm on some fun science activities, make it relative to our area and use it in our outreach programs so when the kids take part, it’s not just a generic program but about the area,” said DeMattia.

Kate Henderson, of Science World, said the workshop was an important step to engage and activate members of the science community in Nanaimo.

“We definitely got a lot of fantastic ideas from the group which will provide the instructors in the outreach programs with a lot of support,” she said.

Augusto Dominguez, a student in VIU’s sustainable leisure management course, said introducing children to science is important, but parents should take an active interest as well.

“I would like to see parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles participate in the science centre and outreach programs,” he said. “Children don’t have the fear that adults do to ask ‘why?’. With this environment, families can find the answers by learning together.”

Meanwhile, the science centre is still in the planning phase, with the society receiving approval from the  Nanaimo Parks Recreation and Culture Commission to develop a concept plan for Bowen Park.

“It’s going to be a hands-on fun place with interactive  exhibits and lab space for schools,” said DeMattia. “We see it similar to Science World in terms of content, but, obviously, not in size. We’re hoping to go back to commission with our drawings sometime this summer.”

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