From Pre-School Play to Rewarding Careers – New Chair Highlights ‘Hidden Value’ of Dundee Science Centre
Dundee Science Centre is making a tangible impact on the lives of thousands of local children as they progress through life, according to its new Chair.
Paul Clancy, who retired from his position of Executive Director of Children and Families Services at Dundee City Council in December 2021, believes the Centre is playing an important role in the present and future of the young people it supports, from pre-schoolers through to university students.
Since Mr Clancy joined the Board of Dundee Science Centre in 2017, the Centre has undergone significant multi-million-pound refurbishments. Following the completion of the Medical Marvels exhibition and science learning suite in 2018, last year saw the unveiling of the CONNECT project, which completely transformed the visitor attraction’s ground floor, making it more accessible and interactive than ever before.
Despite the challenges of Covid-19, the Centre is now engaging record numbers, partly due to its growing digital offering, with over 170,000 engaged in 2021/22 compared to an original target of 92,000.
Having supported thousands of young people throughout his career, Mr Clancy is passionate about promoting STEM and broader social responsibility to local pupils and their families.
“The Science Centre works very closely with the local education sector from early years to universities and these relationships are making a massive difference in attainment and engagement. By developing an interest through play from the earliest age, we’re encouraging more pupils to study STEM subjects at secondary school. Then, by highlighting the careers and opportunities that exist through college, university and local employers, what looks like child’s play now could fill skills gaps, feed industry and stimulate economic growth in the future.”
However, as Mr Clancy explains, education extends way beyond the classroom – “We’re passionate about shaping our activities and events around the wider family, encouraging play, interaction and leaving families with a thought or idea to develop when they go home. We have a huge opportunity to influence and motivate, encouraging our families to keep one eye open to science, whether that’s exploring local wildlife or taking small steps to live more sustainably. I see it as a real privilege to be leading the Science Centre, and because I’ve had so many great opportunities, I view it as a way of giving back to the families who live and work around me.”
As Scotland emerges from Covid restrictions, Mr Clancy believes the opportunities for the Centre to make an even more significant societal impact are becoming clear.
“The pandemic substantially impacted visitor attractions but, while the building was closed, Dundee Science Centre adapted its offering. What’s interesting is that, over time, the team realised the value of a hybrid approach rather than confining its offering to the building itself. By retaining some of the changes we had to make during the pandemic, we are now attracting a larger and wider audience, both online and face-to-face. As Covid restrictions relax, yes, it’s wonderful seeing the centre filling up again, but it’s also fantastic seeing other forms of engagement and exploring that flexibility. While school pupils and teachers enjoy activities live-streamed from the Centre directly into their class, we’re also distributing creating science kits for some of the city’s most deserving children to enjoy during the school holidays. Covid presented a real opportunity to the centre to get out there and engage a wider audience, including people who had perhaps missed out or felt science wasn’t for them.”
Besides his Dundee Science Centre position, Mr Clancy is also on the Board of Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education in Dundee. In September 2022, he will embark on a part-time Masters in Counselling at Abertay University.
For more information about Dundee Science Centre, visit www.dundeesciencecentre.org.uk