For over a dozen years, the Cape Town Science Centre in South Africa has nurtured budding scientists ages four to eighteen, while rallying educators and families around hands-on math and science discovery. Now from its new location just steps away from the world famous Groote Schuur Hospital, where the first heart transplant was performed, the Centre is creating an exciting learning hub.
“Our new building is bigger, and we’re living with other like-minded organizations approaching education in an interactive way that makes science and math fun,” explains Julie Cleverdon, Director of the Cape Town Science Centre.
Renovations include an auditorium that Cleverdon hopes will spark a partnership with the Centre’s famous hospital neighbors. The plan is to join forces with Groote Shuur Hospital and nearby UCT Medical School to broadcast live links to an operating theater. Facilitated with physicians, the learning program will be designed to stimulate youth to become doctors.
While millions visit the Centre’s interactive exhibits each year, Cleverdon emphasizes that the program’s value comes from how her team supports formal learning systems as well. Educators rely on the Centre to help deliver lessons, especially hands-on projects that many schools don’t have the equipment or capabilities to perform. Equally important are the Centre’s community-wide events that bring entire families in to hear scientists talk about current issues that impact the general public such as stem cell research and nuclear energy.
Access to knowledge is core to the Centre’s success. This encompasses everything from proximity to public transportation along with other educational programs in the Centre’s building. “We’re creating a hub of education that people can easily get to with all of our different partners. There’s a saying that if you can’t reach a child in the way that you’re teaching them, then you need to change the way you teach them. Don’t try to change the child, change your teaching method,” says Cleverdon.
Neighbors in the Centre’s building include:
- SA Teen Entrepreneur nurtures teenagers in brainstorming new business ideas. Cleverdon says entrepreneurial programs like these help take young people off the streets and stimulate their journey to productive lives with jobs. This is especially important in South Africa where businesses with fewer than five employees represent 94% of small businesses.
- Living Maths gives young children fun problem-solving activities like bingo, math shows, that form the basis of learning math when they get older.
- Sound House uses music to introduce children to computer technology. Each student receives an original musical CD compilation at course end. Cleverdon says this is often the first exposure participants have to computers, and music draws them in because it’s something they know.
- Career Planet matches youths with job opportunities and career services like resume writing, interview skills, and job hunting strategies.
Cleverdon acknowledges funding challenges in today’s economy, but remains optimistic about 2013. She hopes to expand the Centre’s robotics program with First Lego League Tournament which is also sponsored by SAP. “Robotics is so important because it identifies talent and you can really nurture those young people,” she says. “We’d like to create a robotics center where there’s a steady flow of participants coming through and there’s a tournament at the end of the year.”