Head of Curiosity, and Winchester Ambassador, Nikhil Mistry, share how Winchester Science Centre & Planetarium make learning fun for all.
As a former science teacher, and now a parent of a toddler, I have often asked myself the question, “What makes learning fun?”. It’s not always the easiest task to make all learning WHIZZ and BANG at home, or in the classroom. The pandemic has highlighted how hard it can be to make lessons or homework engaging at home. I am fortunate enough to work at Winchester Science Centre, as Head of Curiosity, where bringing science to life and making learning fun is exactly what we live and breathe.
Winchester is the perfect place to bring learning to life; a vibrant city full of culture, surrounded by the beautiful nature of the South Downs National Park. This makes it the perfect setting for the Centre, attracting visitors from a wide variety of locations and backgrounds. The Centre is run by the charity Wonderseekers, whose mission is to work with children and families, to spark curiosity and explore the wonders of science. By doing so, they feel empowered to improve their lives and protect and heal our planet.
Winchester Science Centre finds that perfect balance of promoting key life skills to young children, while nurturing a passion for learning through play, exploration and listening to their needs. The value of making learning fun is immeasurable, and learning through interaction and immersion ensures that the little (and big) kids are at the centre of their own learning experience. The benefit of having somewhere like Winchester Science Centre, is that it acts as a ‘Classroom+’, providing the experiences that aren’t necessarily easy to reproduce in a classroom or at home. For example, setting alight a snow shovel full of propane-filled bubbles to explain specific heat capacity, a GCSE chemistry topic, puts the science into a relatable, visual and almost tangible context!
One of the challenges faced in a classroom is making learning fun, especially for children with a range of needs. Equity and accessibility are at the heart of the Centre. The aim of Wonderseekers is to create a more equitable world, where all children can treasure science. This is immediately noticeable; from the moment you exit your car and use the paved ramp to the front entrance, to the sensory backpacks that can be borrowed for the duration of a visit, to the carefully designed exhibits. Almost every interactive exhibit has been designed with accessibility in mind, so that it considers the needs of all. For example, table-top exhibits are mounted at an appropriate height above the ground, so that small children and wheelchair users can interact with ease too. The much-applauded recombobulation room is located downstairs – a sanctuary to reset the senses, amid a pyramid teeming with excitement.
Well, that’s where I come in. As the Head of Curiosity, I manage the team of creator and presenters that bring science to life. We offer so many ways to rekindle a love for learning, particularly with science. From explosive science shows in our theatre, to flying through space in the planetarium, or connecting with nature in the peaceful Hazel Coppice. I think our secret formula is that we make science relatable, excitable, and easy to digest. There is no expectation for you to be a scientist before you arrive, but we hope that every visitor, young or old, can take something away from their visit. That may be something different for each person, and that is ok, because that has been designed into everything our team delivers.
Winchester Science Centre is like a big, warm science hug. I would encourage anyone to stop by and say hi on your way through Winchester. Thinking back to the original question of what makes learning fun, think back to a time where you had a learning experience that made you smile and stayed with you. It’s these moments that we hold onto and can inspire us to make a change.
The Winchester Ambassadors are a group of volunteers who enjoy sharing their passion for their city. They were assembled to provide visitors with a local’s view of the city and its attractions. Their thoughts, insights and tips are independent and are not paid for. The Winchester Ambassadors are not affiliated with any of the brands or businesses mentioned in their posts or endorsed by Winchester City Council.