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Elise Pitt Elise Pitt
19/05/2015
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Media contact: Elise Pitt, UOW, +61 2 4221 3079, +61 422 959 953, epitt@uow.edu.au

Learning through play - Australia’s only children’s museum launches in Wollongong

Australia’s only dedicated ‘children’s museum’, and the first-of-its-kind in the world based on a university campus, has been launched at UOW.

The Early Start™ Discovery Space (Discovery Space), launched on Tuesday 19 May, is a purpose-built, hands-on learning through play space that invites children 0-12 and their carers to explore, discover and create together.

Strongly grounded in evidence that play is integral to children’s learning and development, the Discovery Space features custom-designed, ever-evolving, interactive experiences to inspire the imagination and ignite a life-long love of learning.

For example, children can take the helm, load the ship and navigate a journey of discovery around the natural world and beyond on the eight-metre long, five metre-high HMAS Discovery; take a guided tour of the inflatable tummy, becoming a piece of food and travelling down the oesophagus into the stomach and beyond; feel the thrill of being an explorer in unknown territory by entering The Cave, which can transform from a gigantic wombat burrow to a glittering diamond mine.

Early Start Chief Operating Officer Ms Michelle Kellaway said the Discovery Space would be a leader in promoting the benefits of playful learning in Australia. Already there are 30 million people benefiting from visiting children’s museums each year in other countries.

“The Discovery Space is a fun, interactive family experience where parents are encouraged to be directly involved in their children’s learning with dedicated staff on hand to assist families to get the most out of their visit.

“For around the same as the cost of taking your kids to the movies, the Space offers an affordable educational activity for children and accompanying adults to enjoy together.”  

Early childhood expert and UOW Professor of Early Start Marc de Rosnay said the Discovery Space encourages children to be active in body and mind.

“Australian children are at high risk of spending too much time sitting and staring at screens. We know that the first five years of life are especially important for child development and the Discovery Space offers a place to both learn through creative play and to learn how to play in new and engaging ways,” the father of three said.

A destination for families and early childhood and school groups, the Discovery Space is operated and supported by the University of Wollongong and has been built with a generous $7 million contribution from the Abbott Foundation.

The Abbott Foundation is passionate about supporting the mental, behavioural and physical well-being and development of young children. 

Mr Christopher Abbott (pictured below), Director of the Abbott Foundation, said: “A particular initiative of the Foundation is the “Discovery Space” where children share Experiences which accelerate their learning process, promote self confidence and improve the capacity to handle new concepts. It follows that the child will be better able to face school and better able to absorb the learning opportunities offered by school.” 

Another concept behind the Foundation is that prevention is better than cure. Children who have had formative years absorbing the things which make “life tick” are better able to handle to responsibilities of citizenship and parenthood.”

All income from ticket and membership sales will go back into the running of the Discovery Space, which will offer memberships, casual visits, pre-school and school excursions, and children’s birthday parties. It will open to the public from Wednesday 20 May.

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About Early Start:

From the simple premise that “every child deserves the best possible start to life” the University of Wollongong is leading the way by developing the most sophisticated teaching, research and community engagement initiative in higher education. Early Start is a $44million transformational project that aims to create and enrich life opportunities for young Australians from birth to 12 years.

Early Start consists of:

·  The Early Start Discovery Space – Australia’s only example of a ‘children’s museum’ promoting learning through play and the importance of life-long learning

·  A purpose-built facility that operates as an international hub for multidisciplinary research, tackling issues as varied as cognitive development, healthy lifestyles and social inclusion 

·  Cutting-edge early childhood courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels 

·  A network of 41 early childhood education and care centres across New South Wales who are helping to pioneer innovation in the early years and translate research into practice. 

About the Abbott Foundation:

The Abbott Foundation (Foundation) provides funding to people who support the mental, behavioural and physical well-being and development of young children.

A particular initiative of the Foundation is the “Discovery Space” where children share Experiences which accelerate their learning process, promote self confidence and improve the capacity to handle new concepts. It follows that the child will be better able to face school and better able to absorb the learning opportunities offered by school. 

Another concept behind the Foundation is that prevention is better than cure. Children who have had formative years absorbing the things which make “life tick” are better able to handle to responsibilities of citizenship and parenthood.

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