Engaging and exciting kids through the Telethon Kids Discovery Centre
To create an interactive space to get children excited about science, health and research, the Telethon Kids Institute developed the Discovery Centre in 2018 as part of the new Perth Children’s Hospital.
Through a Lotterywest grant, Telethon Kids Institute was able to co-design and develop a range of digital content and fun interactive displays as part of the Discovery Centre to help children and the wider community engage in medical science, research, and health.
To co-design and develop a range of digital content and fun interactive displays as part of the Discovery Centre to help children and the wider community engage in medical science, research, and health.
Telethon Kids Institute
Children attending the Perth Children’s Hospital
Active Healthy People
Health, Childhood Development & Education, Digital disadvantage, Research & Innovation, Inclusion, Mental Health, Youth
- The Telethon Kids Institute was able to improve its ability to connect its researchers with children to promote STEM through the Discovery Centre.
- As part of the centre’s popular school excursion or school holiday programs, children can engage with real researchers, and current projects, and undertake fun science activities in a lab-style setting.
- Once the Centre opened, it became clear that reception staff were unable to support visiting children’s engagement with the activities on their own and that to meet demand and properly engage with children, a volunteer program would be essential.
- The program has allowed Telethon Kids to incorporate volunteers in its activities in a way that was not previously possible.
- As of 2021, up to 40 volunteers assisted in the program, with the institute hoping to expand the group to 50 in the future.
- COVID changed visitor movement patterns at the hospital, which resulted in restricting visitors, and a loss of visibility and exposure.
- Out-patients also spend much of their time at the hospital in waiting room areas, and children who are hospitalised for treatment may not be able to leave the ward.
- An outreach program was put in place to address these impacts.
Research suggests that currently there is a disconnect between the increasing number of occupations that require STEM-related skills and students’ participation in these subjects . Further to this, gameplay has been identified as a key learning method for cognitive and social development, with the hands-on element proving to be more effective than traditional rote learning from books .
With promising research around young children having early and purposeful engagement in science increasing their interest in continuing its study , Telethon Kids Institute saw the opportunity to develop the Discovery Centre to create a fun and interactive space full of games designed to get kids and adults alike excited about science, health, and research.
To help with the creation of the Discovery Centre, Telethon Kids co-designed and developed a range of digital content and messaging delivered via fun interactive displays. The displays feature technology able to adapt to a range of interactions, with basic controls and movements allowing for a wide range of skills, abilities, and age groups.
The Discovery Centre is situated near the Family Resource Centre and Kulunga Moort Mia (Aboriginal family space), giving the young in-patients a much-needed break from their hospital room.
“We come to the hospital nearly every day and now the boys have something they look forward to visiting when we’re here. It’s made coming to the hospital a lot more fun for them.”
Alianna, visitor and mother of 3 boys.
Impacts and outcomes
Since opening in 2018, the Discovery Centre has been a big hit, with approximately 11,000 visitors passing through its doors and 2,577 kids registering a wristband to indicate they would like to come back.
The Centre has also driven broader engagement:
1,360students from years three to six have participated in the School Excursion program
1,500children have participated in Discovery Centre trolley activities
5 xWebsite visits following the launch of Fun for Kids online resources during COVID-19 restrictions
360kids have engaged in science through the School Holiday workshops
“The students learnt lots of information about the role of research and how important it is. They learnt about how to use materials to extract information. There was lots of great information in the Discovery Centre that they were able to share and engage in discussions about. The conversations on the bus ride home were great to listen to.”
Connecting researchers with budding young scientists
Prior to the development of the Discovery Centre, the Telethon Kids Institute was limited in its ability to connect its researchers with children to promote STEM. Now, as part of the centre’s popular school excursion or school holiday programs, when children visit the centre they are also invited upstairs to the Telethon Kids offices, where they can engage with real researchers, and current projects, and undertake fun science activities in a lab-style setting.
What didn't work
COVID changed visitor movement patterns at the hospital
With COVID, PCH was required to implement various restrictions to protect patients and visitors from potential COVID infection. One of these measures included restricting visitor entries to the main entrance and converting the northern entrance next to the Discovery Centre into a staff entry. This meant a loss of visibility and exposure through visitor foot traffic, however, the Centre has managed to continue to attract visitors by undertaking proactive outreach measures. The upside of this change has also meant that 80 to 90 per cent of the people visiting the centre were actively seeking it out.
Being adaptable and mobile
The team soon realised that out-patients spend much of their time at the hospital in waiting room areas, and children who are hospitalised for treatment may not be able to leave the ward – limiting the opportunity for each of these groups to visit the centre. This inspired the development of the Discovery Centre’s trolley outreach activities, which have allowed the team to engage with more children wherever they are in the hospital.
Providing an avenue for volunteer engagement
Prior to the establishment of the Discovery Centre, Telethon Kids Institute had often received enquiries from people interested in being volunteers but lacked an avenue to allow their involvement. Once the Centre opened, it became clear that reception staff were unable to support visiting children’s engagement with the activities on their own and that to meet demand and properly engage with children, a volunteer program would be essential. The program has allowed Telethon Kids to incorporate volunteers in its activities in a way that was not previously possible. As of 2021, up to 40 volunteers assisted in the program, with the institute hoping to expand the group to 50 in the future.
- Holmes, K., et al., An Integrated Analysis of School Students’ Aspirations for STEM Careers: Which Student and School Factors Are Most Predictive? International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 2018. 16(4): p. 655-675.
- Campbell, C., et al., STEM practice in the early years. Creative Education, 2018. 9(01): p. 11.
- Nand, K., et al., Engaging children with educational content via Gamification. Smart Learning Environments, 2019. 6(1): p. 1-15.
- Perth Children's Hospital. History and design. Available from: https://pch.health.wa.gov.au/About-us/History.
Acknowledgement of Country
We acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People as the original custodians of this country, recognising their connection to land, waters and community. We respect their cultures and Elders, past and present.
Ngala kaaditj Whadjuk moort keyen kaadak nidja boodja – We acknowledge Whadjuk Noongar people as the original custodians of the land on which we are based.