An interactive educational space designed for children and adults to enjoy together
Australia’s only dedicated ‘children’s museum’, and the first-of-its-kind in the world based on a university campus, The Early Start Discovery Space is operated and supported by the University of Wollongong and has been built with a generous $7 million contribution from The Abbott Foundation.
As a hands-on creative learning venue, the Early Start Discovery Space has been specifically designed for children from birth to 10 years and their accompanying families, carers, educators and teachers.
Modelled on ‘children’s museums’ found in cities throughout the USA and across Europe, the purpose of these centres is to provide valuable learning experiences for young children and their accompanying older siblings and adults through play-based learning. Activities are designed to allow children to take control and share their imagination and creativity with others. The best-designed activities ensure accompanying adults have as much enjoyment as children, sharing the experience as co-learners and creators.
In fact, children helped design the Discovery Space. Students at Mt Keira Demonstration School and Jervis Bay School imagined, brainstormed and collaborated on ideas for the Discovery Space – from big concepts to small details. Words such as interactive and hands-on were proposed by the children. Descriptions such as colourful, enjoyment, play, space, fun and learning filled the creative workshops.
The next stage of our journey involved our team working to refine and realise these ideas. Many of the concepts were pre-tested at schools and community events. Others are based on concepts that have been tried and tested in children’s museums around the world.
There are criteria that our Experiences must meet, such as:
- Encouraging exploration and fun, and nourishing the connection between play and learning
- Being multi-purposed (for example, The Cave may be an old mine, a wombat burrow, or an ancient cave)
- Aligning with the early childhood and primary school curriculums
- Extending playful learning in the home
The result is that many experiences accommodate a range of social, physical and intellectual capabilities, aimed at creating a learning journey that is playful, fun and meaningful.
Our Experiences are designed so that both children and adults can comfortably participate. They are constructed using natural materials that are appealing to look at and touch; and involve seamless integration of technology to enhance the experience. We provide resources that encourage children to use their imagination to create masterpieces that reflect their experiences in the Discovery Space.
We wish to acknowledge Children’s Discovery Museum Limited for its contribution to the initial concept of the Discovery Space and the initial development of the following Experiences; Construction Zone, Tummy, Shipyard and The Dig.
The Discovery Space is the ultimate learning-through-play environment: a place for imagination, interaction and transformation that ignites a love of learning to last a lifetime.