As the Bahrain Science Centre approaches its third birthday there is much to celebrate. Over 88,000 visitors have benefitted from its in-house informal science education and awareness programmes and tens of thousands more have engaged in its outreach programmes. Over a period of 39 months the science centre has averaged nearly 3, 000 visitors per month or nearly 100 visitors per day, very satisfactory figures for a relatively small country like Bahrain.
The Bahrain Science Centre, which is funded by the Ministry of Social Development and operated by MTE Studios, has developed a rich repertoire of people-centred activities to ‘edutain’ and engage with its visitors. These activities include science shows, technology demonstrations, art & science workshops, science theatre, forensic workshops, storytelling sessions, astronomy, archaeology, biology and geology workshops, fish, squid and crab dissections, debates, discussions and film shows.
Every two months the science centre has presented a different theme to visitors with changing temporary exhibitions, talks and demonstrations on that theme. The science centre also has live animal displays in the entrance foyer as well as a range of science and technology books, magazines and videos, and an array of educational games in the library.
These activities complement visits to the array of over 90 permanent interactive displays distributed in the exhibition galleries on three floors. These permanent displays were enhanced earlier this year with the opening of a world class interactive exhibition on alternative sources of energy, also funded by the Ministry of Social Development.
Visitors to the Bahrain Science Centre over the past three years have fallen into three groups: school and youth groups, general public, and tourists. The school groups include government and private infant, pre-primary, primary, intermediate and secondary schools as well as special needs schools. In addition, the science centre has hosted winter and summer camp group visits as well as visits from religious, sports, literacy and technology special interest groups.
The Bahrain Science Centre works closely with the Ministry of Social Development, and this Ministry’s Youth Club and Social Centres, in the development of its educational programmes. Bookings for government school group and summer camp visits are organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Education. In addition, the science centre has formed close working relationships with the Ministry of Culture and the Traffic Directorate of the Ministry of the Interior.
Exciting collaborative educational programmes have also been developed with the British Council, Alliance Francais and the United States Embassy as well as with the University of Bahrain, MAD Science, Art Zania and with individual scientists and technologists from Bahrain. In addition, the science centre staff has participated in science festivals in Abu Dhabi and South Africa.
There are several ways of measuring the success of a science centre: the total number of visitors, the number of return visitors, and the impact of a visit on an individual. We believe that we have excelled on all three counts. Through our in-reach and outreach programmes we have ignited a spark of interest in science in over 100,000 Bahrainis and expatriates and promoted debates on key science and technology issues.
We have promoted an ethos of lifelong learning and, through ‘smart play’, changed the attitudes of people, young and old, across all religious and cultural groups, towards science. We have also improved dialogue between scientists and the general public and, in so doing, strengthened the science culture of Bahrain.
This is my last article for ‘Bahrain this Week’. I have enjoyed writing them for you, and I trust that you have benefitted from reading them. Goodbye!
Professor Mike Bruton
MTE Studios Director,
Bahrain Science Centre.