Plans for a permanent new £2m interactive children’s gallery at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum have got the green light after being awarded £1.4m from the Inspiring Science Fund, a partnership between the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Wellcome.
The interactive gallery, under the working title ‘MiniBrum’, will deliver Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) learning in a fun and engaging way through a child-sized mini-city in which children and families can safely explore, play and learn in a unique and interactive way.
Due to open in February 2019, the gallery will quadruple Thinktank’s dedicated area for under eights, helping to enhance the visitor experience.
The playful learning environment will encourage children to use maths and science to explain the world around them, helping them to develop the confidence and interest in STEM subjects. Using hands on interactive exhibits and replica objects, the gallery will introduce children to the idea of Birmingham as a city where they live, how the city works and their place within it.
The gallery will be created through co-production with families, children, specialists and educators, alongside expert advisory panels. The plans also include an additional classroom within the space to increase the capacity for school group visits to Thinktank.
Lauren Deere, Museum Manager at Thinktank, said: “We are thrilled to have secured this funding settlement which will help to realise our ambitious plans for a new interactive gallery at Thinktank. By working directly with children we aim to create a truly unique and engaging space that places joint emphasis on learning through STEM and children’s wellbeing.
“It is important for us to plan for the future of the museum to ensure we are offering the best experience to visitors, while reaching a growing diverse audience in the city so young people have the opportunity to be inspired by STEM subjects and have fun.”
Thinktank is the leading West Midlands venue for public engagement with STEM, engaging around 250,000 visitors onsite and through outreach programmes. The new attraction will replace the existing under eights gallery and is part of a wider masterplan to develop the museum throughout the next 10 years.
The science museum is part of Birmingham Museums Trust, which is one of the largest museum trusts in England and welcomes over one million visitors each year across all nine sites.
Thinktank was one of just five projects to be awarded a project grant by the Inspiring Science Committee, with the innovative plan praised for promoting emotional, intellectual and physical wellbeing. The fund is part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy to encourage more young people to consider STEM careers, and aims to support centres to better understand the needs of under-served and under-represented audiences, and deliver STEM learning that is accessible and enticing for all.
Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson, said: “Exhibitions are often our first experience of science and have a vital role in bringing the subject to life to encourage more young people to embrace science and engineering careers.
“This fund will provide vital support to help centres across the UK attract a new audience, supporting our Industrial Strategy to increase the diversity in the science sector and ensure we have the technical skills for the future.”
Anna Ramsay, Public Engagement Development Manager, Wellcome, said: “Wellcome is delighted to support this new initiative for Thinktank. Our commitment from the Inspiring Science Fund reflects the important role of science centres as the gateway to STEM engagement and meaningful impact on the lives of young people across the UK. The welcoming and family-friendly nature of this ambitious new interactive gallery highlights the importance of early years informal learning.”
The total project costs are £2m, of which 70% has been funded by the Inspiring Science Fund. Other funders include Millennium Point Trust, The Rowlands Trust, The 29th May Charitable Trust, City of Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery Development Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Grimmitt Trust and DCMS Wolfson, with just 8% left to raise.