Opinion: Why the future of Science World remains uncertain

Nov 26 2020, 8:54 pm

Written for Daily Hive by Cybele Negris, Co-Founder & CEO, Webnames and Science World Board Member

Widely recognized in Vancouver’s city skyline, few people know that Science World is a non-profit organization. Its easy to take such an iconic building for granted as the dome, originally built for Expo 86, has been here for as long as most of us can remember.

In the last few years Science World has welcomed a record-breaking number of visitors, resulting in expanded science education outreach all over the province. Last year, they reached 145,475 people across British Columbia through their outreach. 

Science World

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at the dedication of Science World in 1987. (Science World)

But, COVID-19 has drastically altered the path of Science World and its future remains uncertain. Before the pandemic, 85% of Science Worlds revenue had come from ticket sales and events with only 2% of its funding from the government.

For the past five years, Science of Cocktails has raised a minimum of $285,000 each year for the Class Field Trip Bursary Program which supports children in underrepresented communities. The iconic event will not be taking place in 2021. 

What many Vancouverites dont realize is that Science World is more than just a local attraction. Its a hub where the leaders of today train the leaders of tomorrow through a variety of science programs.

science world eureka

Science World’s Eureka exhibition (Science World)

In years past, Science Worlds On the Road program reached children K through 12 in their home communities all over BC. For three years, Girls & STEAM has connected young girls with mentors in their field. The Scientists and Innovators in the Schools program of trained STEAM professionals have delivered free in-class presentations across the province to over 2.4 million students since 1989.

In 2017, BC Green Games celebrated 10 years of province-wide engagement where more than 1,000 inspirational eco-action projects have been submitted. The list goes on. 

These onsite programs have all halted with many moving online, but without the support of ticket sales and events, their future is unclear. 

science world towers of tomorrow lego

LEGO Towers of Tomorrow exhibition at Science World. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

So, why should you care? Science World is doing important work to further STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) learning for youth all over BC, particularly helping reach those in underrepresented communities and young girls and women.

Canada is facing a major gap in gender diversity in STEM careers. Today, less than a quarter of STEM jobs are held by women. Studies found women are less likely to enroll in a STEM program, and those who do are less likely than men to remain in a STEM program over the course of their studies.  

The shortage of women in STEM is widely recognized as detrimental to women, since science and technology occupations, particularly in engineering and computer science, are among the highest-paying and fastest-growing occupations.  

Science Worlds outreach programs are all funded by admission sales and events and without these, or more government support, theyre at peril. The effects of this has the potential to be felt for years to come. 

As our world accelerates towards increased digitization and businesses across all industries pour resources into becoming more technology enabled, the urgency for tech talent grows by the day.  

Science Behind Pixar Science World

Inside the Science Behind Pixar exhibition at Science World in Vancouver, 2018. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

I would challenge that if we really want to prepare our kids for a world that is undergoing technology transformation at a faster-than-ever pace, then kids should be immersed in activities, such as the ones Science World offers.

Coding as part of the curriculum is a good start. So is supplementing a childs education with coding camps and clubs, robotics clubs and after school programs wherever feasible, as well as bringing these activities within reach of more diverse families. 

Science World is doing its part to expand a love and passion for science, technology, engineering, arts & design and math. Without fundraising or government support, the future of Science World and these programs is uncertain. Here’s how to donate today.

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