On Sept. 8, an open house was held at Bowen Park to discuss plans for a proposed science centre. The event allowed the public to ask questions and provide feedback through a survey.

The proposed science centre is geared towards all-age groups. There would be hands-on activities for children to foster learning at a young age and to allow university students to gain work experience. The facility would also provide a place for scientists to converge and discuss their work and innovations.

Suzanne Samborski, Senior Manager of Recreation and Culture Services, says, “I think having a science centre in Nanaimo would definitely be a benefit for the community. The question that we’re asking is if the residents support having a science centre at Bowen Park, and really that’s going to be the deciding factor.”

Residents had the chance to voice their opinions on a large bulletin board, fill out a survey, or question council members and scientists about the proposed facility.

Liz DeMattia, Executive Director of the Nananimo Science and Sustainability Society and co-founder of the project, says, “It is also an economic driver for the city—everyone would benefit.”

DeMattia worked on a project called Science in the Park through the summer. She is currently planning a project called “Science on the Move,” which is a mobile science van that brings hands-on activities into classrooms. She says that the proposed science centre will focus on the natural ecology of Bowen Park, such as the salmon, but exhibitions will cover a wide array of scientific disciplines.

“When we say ‘science’ it’s not just ecology: it’s physics, math, everything. But having something here allows us to really celebrate the local ecology of this area from the salmon to the Douglas fir to the cedar—all these really important iconic species. Giving our whole community a place to understand and connect them,” DeMattia says.

DeMattia adds that the concept will be a multi-level building that will utilize all available space and leave as little of a carbon footprint as possible. It will have flexible and interactive exhibit rooms that showcase natural ecology and have hands-on elements to keep young minds engaged.

DeMattia adds that “there would be an indoor/outdoor laboratory for K–7 classes to come in. K–7 classrooms in B.C. don’t have designated lab space in their schools—some students don’t even have microscopes.”

An online survey conducted by The City of Nanaimo’s Parks, Recreation, and Culture department has provided feedback from across the island.

“We’ve heard from people from as far as Tofino that were saying ‘this would be so amazing’ because they can do one field trip over to Vancouver but they would be able to bring multiple classrooms to something that was on the Island,” DeMattia says.

Laura Fletcher and Helen Godolphin, who are parents, say, “We think it would be really great to have an educational and fun indoor space to bring kids to, especially in a beautiful spot like Bowen Park.”

Mayor John Ruttan adds that, “it’s a very exciting proposal and I think this really fits in well; VIU has some very complimentary plans to this. I think that the science centre is something that the community has long needed. I think that Bowen Park is a perfect site for it. I’m looking forward to seeing the opening.

“I think that the science application is an important one and I think really one of the things we have a shortage of in Nanaimo, in my opinion, are things to challenge the youth today. I think that this project, when it meets fruition and gets going, will really be something that young children are going to not only enjoy but find challenging enough to come back again and again. That’s really what the whole plan is all about—education,” Ruttan says.

Ruttan is optimistic towards the project, praising it for its uniqueness. “I think it will steer them in the right direction. You could take them to a country fair or something of that nature but I think that a science exhibit is unique. We don’t have anything like it in Nanaimo. It’s been talked about for awhile and now we got a very good group of dedicated people that really see a focus here, and they’re going ahead. I think it’s something that I, and all of council, endorse. I certainly support it strongly and think it’s the right move at the right time,” Ruttan concludes.

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