Taking the plunge for a Eureka moment on Merseyside
At the Eureka!, the National Children's Museum, young visitors are greeted in the entrance hall by a statue of Archimedes being dunked unceremoniously into a full bathtub with a splash.
It’s a symbol of how the 25-year-old attraction took its name from the Greek scholar’s exultant cry at making a sudden discovery while immersing himself in water more than 2,000 years ago.
But it also simply demonstrates one of the central philosophies behind the museum in Halifax that learning about science can be fun, which is also one the key messages behind British Science Week, which started on Friday with events across the country and continuing until Monday.
Now curators at Eureka! are hoping to open a second site more than 60 miles away across the Pennines on Merseyside to inspire hundreds of thousands more children about the joys of scientific discovery.
“There is still a perception that science is a bit boring, that it’s about white laboratory coats and safety glasses,” says Eureka! chief executive Leigh-Anne Stradeski.
“But we can change that. Science is part of everyday life and it’s incredibly important, but it can also be incredibly fun.”
Plans for the museum’s new site next to a ferry terminal at Seacombe in Wirral, on the opposite shore of the River Mersey from Liverpool, are still in their early stages and in need of funding. However, if it goes ahead, it is hoped the new museum could draw about 240,000 young visitors a year when it opens in 2021.
The future museum will seek to develop ways of giving children hands-on activities to learn about health and life scenes, advanced manufacturing, low-carbon technology and digital skills.
They could, for example, learn to operate an assembly line or assemble a wind turbine with a giant crane.
“It’s about helping them to grow and thrive, raise aspirations and getting the children interested and inspiring them. Eureka! is fun and educational, it’s meaningful and gets children engaged. Even at a really young age, children find this stuff really cool,” says Ms Stradeski.
Eureka! ambassador Maddie Moate, a hugely popular science and education YouTube star and TV presenter, agrees. “Every child is curious about the world around them and every child likes to play,” she says. “Places like Eureka! offer a positive experience with learning.
“A child is far more likely to remember something from being hands-on. They won’t walk away thinking ‘I don’t love science’. They will walk away thinking ‘I loved that big nose where we learned about the senses or all the mechanics where we learned about cars’.”
A number of companies in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics are already on board with the new Eureka! project. Thousands of children in Wirral, which has pockets of high deprivation, will be consulted about the plans.
Engineers, scientists and programmers could be brought in to offer workshops at the museum. There could also be a tie-in with other museums across the river, linked by the Mersey ferry.
Ms Stradeski hopes the new museum could inspire the scientists and engineers of the future. During a recent visit to the CERN laboratory near Geneva, she was overjoyed to meet a scientist who said he was inspired by visiting Eureka! as a child.
“We know that not every child is going to be a scientist,” she says. “But there are lots of fantastic careers in science.
“It’s about building children’s confidence and raising the aspirations. After 25 years, our dream remains is that the scientists of the future will say they were inspired by Eureka!”