New home for Cape science centre

2010-11-02 14:35
School children pose at the nail puzzle in the MTN Sciencentre. (MTN Sciencentre)

School children pose at the nail puzzle in the MTN Sciencentre. (MTN Sciencentre)

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Cape Town - The MTN Sciencentre, soon to be renamed to the Cape Town Science Centre, has found a new home.

The centre's new building will be in Observatory, near Cape Town, after the science centre closed its doors at the Canal Walk shopping centre in September this year.

"The search and finalisation of the acquisition of this building as the home of the future Cape Town Science Centre has been a lengthy one, creating critical time pressures on the fund-raising efforts in order to secure the opening of the centre as early as possible in the new year," the centre said in a statement.

"The proximity of the site to the University of Cape Town, the medical school and Groote Schuur hospital, the astronomers at the Observatory as well as other like-minded institutions, all support the opportunity to build a hub of real science enthusiasts in Observatory," said Brian Schreuder, chair of the Science Centre Board.

The new building is in a dilapidated state after having stood vacant for eight years and the science centre will have to do extensive renovation work before the planned public launch date.

Refurbishment

"The completion of Phase 1, a large open warehouse space, will ensure that the science centre can open with the bulk of its most popular displays and begin accepting visitors as soon as possible.

"A major element of the refurbishment of Phase 1 will be the replacement of the warehouse roof, which is currently made of asbestos. Phase 2 will largely consist of teaching laboratories, a teacher and careers resource centre, as well as other areas," the centre said.

Despite some support from the Western Cape provincial government, it is unclear where the centre will find the money to complete the first phase of refurbishment by June 2011. It plans to hold a fund-raising campaign.

Despite this though, the centre plans to develop closer ties with schools and has recently established a satellite learning centre in Sutherland, near the Southern African Large Telescope.

According to Professor John H Falk and Professor Lynn D Dierking of Oregon State University, most of science learning takes place outside the classroom.

"On average, only about 5% of Americans' lifetime is spent in the classroom, and only a small fraction of that is dedicated to science instruction, emerging data suggests that the best way to increase the public understanding of science is to reach people during the other 95% of their life," they found in a study.

The Western Cape education department is supporting the science centre this year with an operational grant as it prepares to take its next step. The department is also the sponsor of its mobile unit, the WCED Mobile Sciencentre.

"The hands-on, informal approach to learning, where visitors actively engage in 'discovering' science and become excited about science, making them more receptive to teaching in the classroom, is a key factor that sets science centres apart from other learning institutions," said Julie Cleverdon, director of the MTN Sciencentre.

The MTN Sciencentre will be the host institution for the Sixth Science Centre World Congress, which will take in Cape Town in September 2011.


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