An invitation to play

Storeroom items turned into enticing interactives

Kerri Carr

An Exploratorium has been set up at Wiley Park Girls High School to engage students and the community in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) concepts.

Teacher Murray Henstock said the Exploratorium offers a hands-on way to explore science concepts instead of the traditional lesson-based approach.

“More hands on experiences lead to self-discovery,” he said.

“It makes students more comfortable to ask questions and become curious about what’s going on.”

The Exploratorium is located in a regular learning space. Mr Henstock wants Wiley Park Girls High School students, parents, friends and community members and students from other schools to “come and play and explore”.

Displays and interactives include a fire vortex, physics-based marble run, storm jar, wave machine, light board with a selection of x-rays and MRIs, optics bench, room-length solar system, air track and air table, giant earth model and a selection of biological models.

Temporary displays have included lasers, mirrors and projectors.

“Cross KLA and STEM opportunities are inherent in its design to allow for maximum participation by all students and faculties,” Mr Henstock said.

He hopes the Exploratorium will soon have a simulation computer, thermotrophic panels and an ever-expanding selection of interactive displays.

Taking students to science destinations like the Powerhouse Museum and Questacon was Mr Henstock’s inspiration for the Exploratorium. During an Inspiring Science Teacher’s Program workshop at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) in late 2014 participants were encouraged to come up with ideas to make science more engaging, hands on and inquiry based and link these new ideas to STEM. He shared his Exploratorium idea and in early 2015 he hosted an Inspiring Science Teach Meet at Wiley Park Girls High for teachers from the region and the UTS Inspiring Science Network plus UTS representatives to begin building the Exploratorium.

Mr Henstock said they set up equipment, trialled new instalments, tested things out and developed inspired ways of presenting random science tools.

“The University of Technology, Sydney provided support to obtain some desired items of equipment to help establish the Exploratorium,” Mr Henstock said.

He said some teachers donated their own items while others took away ideas on how they could do something similar in their schools or just use old equipment in new ways.