Last Friday, the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) held their annual Open Day. This is a fantastic community event where members of the community can visit the HMRI facility to find out about the various HMRI research projects and enjoy a variety of interactive science activities.
Activities covered topics as diverse as extracting DNA from strawberries, making models of bacteria, and ‘art and science’ workshops to laboratory tours and lectures about ‘The Science Behind Zombies’ and ‘The Genetics of Rare Abilities, Real Life X-Men’.
The day aimed to engage preschool and school aged children, teens and adults with science-based activities and discussions, emphasising the work done by HMRI researchers and encouraging students to consider science-based career paths.
I was delighted to be included in the HMRI Open Day program. I think story time sessions are a great addition to most community events and I’m very interested in engaging children with STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) themes through stories, so running a science-themed story time at the Open Day was the perfect fit for me.
I took with me two boxes of books (picture books and junior non-fiction), which featured science themes or content, and/or an emphasis on critical thinking. The books were available for children and parents to browse and we had a steady flow of people throughout the day stopping to take a look at the books on display, listen to a story or take a copy of the list of STEM-themed books for children I had printed out for the day.
It was wonderful to see so many children and parents interested in the books. I read with several young children and was pleasantly surprised when many older children also chose to spend some time in our story corner reading by themselves. We also had numerous parents take some time out from the busy activities around us to sit with their children and read a story or two (or three).
Photo credit: HMRI
Throughout the day I had many conversations with parents and teachers about science-themed stories. With my own plans for a science-themed series of picture books underway, it was encouraging to have so many children and adults keen to read books promoting STEM themes and topics, and particularly encouraging to have many of the teachers actively seeking information about books that would be suitable for their classrooms.
I had so much fun on the day reading with the children and discussing the various books. The two Engibear titles (Engibear’s Dream and Engibear’s Bridge) were particular favourites and were rarely left on the table for more than 5 – 10 minutes before they were discovered by another excited child.
It was great to see the diversity of scientific study emphasised throughout the day and I feel that the inclusion of our story time corner was part of that diversity. The Open Day ran from 10am – 4pm and the hours just flew by. I was wonderfully supported on the day by Nancy, a volunteer who was just as excited as I was to see the children enjoying the various stories.
Thanks so much to the organisers of the HMRI Open Day. I really did feel very privileged to be part of such a great event and I’m already looking for titles to expand my collection so that I can host a bigger and better story corner at the Open Day next year.
Part of the purpose of the Open Day is to raise awareness of the research work done at HMRI. Please visit the HMRI website to review their current research projects, career opportunities and donation options.
I have shared the book list I used at the Open Day in this post on STEM-themed books for children.