2020 In Review

The UNE Discovery Voyager program has looked a little different this year. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team have postponed 45 school and community visits, and reduced travel by over 4000km.

Staying at home or in the lab has certainly highlighted the importance of our role as science communicators and educators in bringing that little extra spark of curiosity into children’s world of wonder, with many schools expressing their despair in the team not being able to make the voyage out to schools, and teachers eagerly awaiting an opportunity to re-book.

But the Discovery Voyager crew have been busy tapping into their 5Cs….

  • cultivating curiosity in adults and children at home or school,
  • building confidence in their online audience to explore and play with STEAM,
  • collaborating with their friends and partners to learn from and with each other,
  • facilitating creative ways of maintaining relationships and engaging students from afar,
  • and encouraging a can-do attitude in everything they do.

The Voyager Online initiative has reached over 100,000 children, families and educators around the world since March through daily content on their Facebook and Instagram, as well as the UNE Discovery Voyager Website.

The ‘How do You Play?’ challenge encouraged parents and teachers to show their adaptations to alternate learning styles and playing at home. Similarly, the Term 3 LEGO Competition encouraged students Australia-wide to play with LEGO and create a build around one of four STEAM themes. Collaborating with Modern Teaching Aids, a LEGO Spike Prime school set was offered as a prize, and with over 200 creative entries from as far as Christmas Island, picking a winner was a challenge in itself.

Continuing on with the team’s collaborations, working with Dr. Oliver Knox, CottonInfo and the SMART Farms team to bring schools a Term 4 Soil Your Undies Challenge has been a highlight of our engagement calendar. From the hypotheses of Year 1 students at Footscray Public School to social media posts of home schoolers and at schoolers, it has been evident that this citizen science opportunity has captured the imagination and scientific interest of all involved. Undies have now been exhumed, the winner of the participation prize drawn, and we are expecting at least 200 pairs of undies returned to us in tatters by the end of January!

The 2020 National Science Week was held over 16-23 August this year. The theme for schools was ‘Deep-Blue: Innovations for the Future of our Oceans’, which aimed to embrace the innovative technologies, capabilities and skills needed to achieve economic, environmental and social sustainability of our oceans.

The Discovery team ignited moments of wonder and surprise around our Armidale city and UNE campus reflecting this theme, with the team creating chalk murals of our oceans, schools of origami sea-life, knitted ocean plants, crotched fish and painted river rocks (part of the NSW Rocks project), each paired with a point of curiosity and fun fact about the Earth’s incredible oceans. The project was well received by the UNE and Armidale community. See here for more about the initiative.

All of this new normal, STEAM learning and engagement with curiosity and exploration has been driven and supported by YOU, our followers, fellow educators, students and curious humans. Thank you to everyone that has liked, experimented, told stories, created play moments, participated in our challenges and subscribed to our YouTube channel!