Sure, you could head down the coast on holidays, with everyone else. And deal with this:
OR you could explore the wonders of our nation’s capital – Canberra! Inspiring Australia ACT is here to give you the heads up on all the best “science” that Canberra has to offer. Just because you are on holiday, doesn’t mean your brain is! (but shhhhh, don’t tell the kids they are learning – they’ll be too busy having fun!
For many of us, Canberra is synonymous with the National Science and Technology Centre, aka, Questacon. It’s a national institution and the Freefall is an Australian right of passage. If the last time you were there was on your Year 6 excursion, then perhaps it’s time for a revisit?!
The great thing about Questacon is that it keeps refreshing itself and there is something new every time you visit and they have fantastic exhibitions that are always changing. Currently, you can explore the maths behind everything at Samsung’s Mathamazing and ByteWise (on until 1 March, 2017). The exhibitions encourage visitors to playfully explore maths concepts through logic puzzles and mathematical models.
The thing I love about Questacon (OK, one of the things!) is that you can you can go as deep or as not-so-deep as you want – you can just push the buttons and see what happens, or you can read all the info and get a deep understanding. And you can visit multiple times as your kids grow up, and get a bit more out of each exhibit each time as they get old and wiser.
The other new-ish exhibit is The Shed maker-space. I am loving this! Just watching kids (and big kids!) tinker away, designing, testing, playing and making is a cool thing to watch. It’s even better to do. Trust me!
And most of the other exhibits you may know and love have been tweaked, shiny-ed up and added to. LOVING the Awesome Earth Gallery and the cloud chamber and the new Ice Bodies – seriously, I could watch those for hours!
And you really need to watch at least one Excited Particles show – I’m an (ex) science teacher, and I still learn something new every time I watch one. Plus, they are funny!
My hot tip is to get there early – it does get a tad crowded in the holidays, particularly on a hot day, so if you don’t want to be elbowing all the little kids out of the way to have a go (what, me?), so try to make this your first stop for the day. There is a cafe on-site, but also lots of lovely picnic spots nearby.
2) Walk of Wonder!
Once you’ve exhausted all the exhibits inside the big Q, did you know there is a world of hidden science to explore outside? Apart from the big granite ball (who doesn’t love that?), you can download the Questacon Walks of Wonder app from your preferred app store before you even leave home. These guided tours take you on a 30-60 minute wander around Questacon and the Parliamentary triangle, to explore the sneaky science hidden in the things you never even noticed. A fantastic way to spend some time out in the fresh air and also explore some very cool public art!
3) Jerrabomberra Wetlands
What a hidden oasis, right in the heart of Canberra, after your lunch/coffee stop at Kingston Foreshore (Max Brenner chocolate, anyone?), there lies an amazing ecosystem (albeit, man-made when they dammed the Molonglo River to make Lake Burley Griffin) that is now home to an amazing array of birdlife. Take your walking shoes, hat, sunscreen and binoculars (but leave Fido at home please!) and see if you can spot migratory birds from Japan, turtles, water dragons or a platypus. There are also plenty of organised activities, lots especially for kids, including drawing, clay sculpture and bug hunts – check the website for the latest!
4) Geoscience Australia
After the animal spotting, you might want to try something a little less active and movable. Head down to Symonston, where the enormous Geoscience Australia building is surprisingly welcoming! There are LOTS of displays of rocks, minerals, and everything geological. Learn about earthquakes, the science of Minecraft or check out the Periodic Table of Mobile Phones – all for FREE (my favourite cost of admission). There’s even a library, with dinosaurs on display and where you can delve into someone’s PhD on geology (quite fascinating). And I learned that the earth is really active and movable!
Outside, there is the amazing Geological Timewalk. This will really put things in perspective for you! It’s a physical representation of geological time in the landscaped gardens of the Geoscience Australia. The TimeWalk leads you on a 1.1 kilometre journey through the Earth’s 4600 million year (Ma) history and represents the evolution of the Earth from its formation though to the present day. There is an accompanying app to help you discover even more, as you ponder the vastness of geological time and check out some pretty cool rocks!
5) Mulligans Flat Twilight Tour
After dinner (check out the Visit Canberra site to help you choose – lots of family-friendly options too!), why not experience the amazing work that the folk at Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary are doing in helping conserve and restore the wildlife of Canberra! While you can go any time during the day (except on Total Fire Ban days), it is at its best during the night, when the nocturnal animals come out! And they include eastern bettongs, quolls, stone curlews and a host of other things. Tours are led by an ecologist, so you know you are getting the best knowledge as well as spotting unique Australian wildlfe (plus, the cute!!!).
Get a great night’s sleep, because tomorrow is Day 2 of your Brain Break – Canberra has so much more to offer!