Tuesday, 30 April, 2013 - 00:00

It’s not always easy to get away for school excursions. At remote rural schools, the financial burden of travelling long distances can add substantially to the cost of even simple activities. Equally, the task of organising excursions for students who may be coping with mobility issues can add an extra layer of complexity and cost for special schools.

So, in a clever twist on the old adage of bringing the mountain to Mohammed, why not consider bringing the excursion to the classroom instead.
Questacon, the National Science and Technology Centre in Canberra, has been running outreach programs in towns and communities across Australia since 1985.
The longest running is the Shell Questacon Science Circus, a regional road show of energetic, young science communicators from Canberra’s Australian National University, which tours regional Australia.
It’s over 25 years since the circus first began presenting interactive science shows in local schools. For the local community, an added bonus when the circus rolls into town are 50 science exhibits unloaded from the truck and set up as a public, hands-on exhibition in a community space for everyone to learn and discover science and technology together.
And the Questacon Science Squad, a team of professional science communicators, who present fun-filled shows featuring spectacular science demonstrations. For younger children, the Questacon Science Play brings hands-on activities, portable exhibits and presentations to engage in science play.
Questacon’s outreach programs visit thousands of schools in every state and territory every year, with an estimated 300,000 people in local communities taking part in the programs and exhibitions they bring.
But, if you can’t wait for Questacon’s visit, many state museums offer outreach programs in their own states, with some activities even available by post.
Museum Victoria, which cares for that state’s scientific and cultural collections, has offered a kit loan service to schools in rural and metropolitan Victoria for the past five years. For more information visit: http://museumvictoria.com.au/education/discovery-programs
Wild Action Zoo, “where the zoo comes to you”, has been bringing into the classroom all sorts of scaled, furry and swimming creatures since 1994.
All Wild Action Zoo’s incursions are tailored to suit the age range and curriculums of Victorian classrooms. And all include the opportunity for students to touch and interact safely with animals.
Wild Action Zoo also works with special schools, early intervention groups, and adults with disabilities.
In Western Australia, Scitech is a not-for-profit, hands-on science centre that since 1988 has prided itself on making the world of science an inspiring and exciting experience: “Our mission is to increase interest and participation by Western Australians in science and technology”.
As one of WA’s biggest professional learning providers, Scitech delivers educational programs to around 2500 teachers every year. That includes an extensive range of outreach programs.
Even daily working rural experiences can be brought into city classrooms. Animals on the Move, in Gembrook Victoria, will bring Brandy the milking cow to school so that children from kindergarten to year 2 can see that milk, butter and cream doesn’t just come from the supermarket.
In the hour and a half-long activity, children can take turns to milk Brandy, discover how to separate the cream from the milk and finish with making butter using different methods.