South Australia picks up science education gauntlet after Feds drop it

By / 25th of February, 2015

A SCIENCE club for children has been launched in South Australia to replace a popular national science education program that was dropped due to federal funding cuts.

The Bright Sparks Science Club , launched last week at The University of Adelaide, will fill a gap left after Federal Government funding cuts to the CSIRO saw dollars diverted away from science education and outreach programs.

Bright Sparks offers regular holiday, after-school and weekend science and technology activities for 6-15 year olds.

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Practical demonstrations of science at work are one way to get kids interested in the field.

Veteran science communicator and Public Service Medal-recipient Rona Sakko is coordinating the new club.

“As far as I know, South Australia is the only state offering this kind of science club now,” said Rona.

Rona ran the activities-based Double Helix Science Club in Adelaide for 16 years, before it ceased operations mid-2014.

“When the South Australian Double Helix Club closed, I had kids and parents in tears. I was inundated with messages from parents desperate for a science club to continue,” said Rona.

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Rona Sakko on stage.

“It’s really important to target this age group, the primary school and lower secondary school-aged kids.”

“A large study of over 700 scientists in Australia and New Zealand showed that this is the critical age to be targeting. This is the time when they really can get hooked into science,” she said.

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are vitally important in the modern world.

Professor Bob Hill, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Sciences, says supporting the Bright Sparks Science Club is a natural fit with the broader aims of The University of Adelaide. 

“We understand the power of having children that age engaged in science,” he said.

“The point of the club is not to convince children to come to The University of Adelaide. We just want them to have an interest in science – the whole community benefits from that.”

Liesl von der Borch is parent to four children aged 21-12, all of whom had previously attended CSIRO science outreach programs in South Australia.

“We were devastated when the Double Helix Club shut down, utterly devastated,” she said.

She says the new club will provide important opportunities for her fourth child Jamal, now aged 12.

“I don’t know what I would do without it, because I’m not a scientist,” she said. “Jamal has such a passion for physics, for chemistry, and for bird ecology. I can’t meet that need for him.”

“I just love the fact that he can be extended beyond what he is offered at school as well. Primary schools don’t do science like this,” said Liesl. 

Bright Sparks was officially launched at The University of Adelaide by Dr Andrew Dunbar, Director of the Office of Science, Technology and Research, representing Gail Gago, MLC, Minister for Science and Information Economy.

“Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – aka STEM – are vitally important in the modern world,” he said. “STEM is a key driver of economic growth, innovation and our adaptability to change.”

“It’s exciting to consider the future careers of the children who attend the Bright Sparks Science Club,” said Dr Dunbar. 

The University of Adelaide also publish an award-winning digital magazine called e-Science to help teachers with science in the classroom.

Bookings and club member registrations for Bright Sparks can be made at

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Key contacts

Rona Sakko Coordinator, Bright Sparks Science Club Faculty of Sciences, The University of Adelaide
61 0419 827 723