The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education heard yesterday, April 18th, that the new National Children’s Science Centre, which will be based on the north wing of the Earlsfort Terrace complex in Dublin, will support and complement the Department of Education’s primary and post-primary science curriculum. It will also provide facilities for students and teachers to engage in an interactive and non-formal way with the world of science and its possibilities.
The Chair of the National Children’s Science Centre’s Chair of the Exhibit Advisory Committee, Dr Áine Hyland, Emeritus Professor of Education, University College Cork was speaking today at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education’s ‘Roundtable Discussion on the Future of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) in Irish Education’.
Permission has recently been granted by Dublin City Council for the 10,000 sq. metre National Children’s Science Centre after plans were submitted by the Office of Public Works and a decision from An Bord Pleanala is expected shortly.
The science centre, which is targeted primarily at 4-16 years olds, will house three floors of immersive, interactive exhibits, a laboratory and a purpose-built state-of-the-art Planetarium.
“The National Children’s Science Centre will have dedicated activity spaces for very young children and will cater for primary and second level pupils as well as for the curious of all ages”, said Dr Hyland “It will have a policy of equality of access and will have a particular focus on ensuring ready access for people of different abilities and disabilities and for those from less advantaged backgrounds. This new science centre will support and complement the Department of Education’s primary and post-primary science curriculum and will provide facilities for students and teachers to engage in an interactive and non-formal way with the world of science and its possibilities”.
Dr Hyland reminded the Committee that, up until now, Ireland has been the only country of the OECD and of the EU not to have a national children’s science centre. “The need for such a science centre was identified in 2002 by the then Irish Council for Science, Technology and Innovation and was reiterated in the Report of the Review Group on STEM Education in the Irish School System in 2016’, she said, “The National Children’s Science Centre aligns with the government’s ‘STEM Education Policy Statement 2017-2026’ which emphasises the need to nurture “curiosity, inquiry, problem-solving, ethical behaviour, confidence and persistence, along with the excitement of collaborative innovation”.
“The National Children’s Science Centre will also contribute to the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and will be a resource for students and teachers in the interpretation and expansion of the Department of Education’s STEM curriculum at primary and post-primary level”, Dr Hyland added.
She asked for the support and endorsement of Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science for the proposed new National Children’s Science Centre on Earlsfort Terrace.
“STEM education is a government priority”, said Dr Hyland, “I’m sure the government will see the National Children’s Science Centre as an investment in Ireland’s future-in its people, in society and in the economy. Fifty-five years ago, in 1967, a courageous Minister for Education, Donogh O’Malley, recognised the potential in investing in education and introduced free second level education. Everyone now agrees that that investment contributed hugely to the success of the Irish economy. Whichever Minister signs off on the National Children’s Science Centre will, in my view, be the Donogh O’Malley of the 21st Century.”
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