University of Western Australia: Curious kids explore big ideas at Eurekamp Oz

Could magic be real? Is coral a rock, plant, or animal? Do we even need sharks? Is a Pokémon a pet? How can planting trees help cool the earth?

These were just some of the questions keeping kids busy at The University of Western Australia last week, as four innovative Eurekamp Oz! school holiday programs were rolled out across campus.

A collaboration between UWA, the charity PEiPL Ltd and a Children’s University Learning Destination, Eurekamp Oz! is the brainchild of Rob Wilson, Professor of Philosophy in UWA’s School of Humanities and one of the founders of the original Eurekamp in Canada.

The October spring edition involved more than 100 kids in activities at Imagineering! (five-to-nine-year-olds) and Oceans 21! (10-14 year-olds).

Designed and implemented in partnership with UWA’s Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre (IOMRC), both programs explored the wonders and complexities of the ocean and everything that lives in it, with a little help from Carly Portch and Justin Geldard, PhD candidates at the IOMRC.

Kids have a natural curiosity and an incredible imagination and in my department we’re all about opening up philosophical thinking to a much broader demographic.

Professor Rob Wilson
“Kids have a natural curiosity and an incredible imagination and in my department we’re all about opening up philosophical thinking to a much broader demographic,” Professor Wilson said.

“Our five Work Integrated Learning interns and other volunteers worked with lecturer of philosophy and director of Eurekamp Oz!, Dr Kaz Bland to put their philosophical know-how into community-orientated action, with great results. Our scholarship program also enabled more than 20 children in need to participate in the camps.”

For Imagineering! attendees, some extra excitement as they inspected a giant banner made from a mosaic of 2,629 drawings from 213 school in 33 countries, the result of the Kids Care About Climate Change 2021 drawing contest organised by the outreach program, ‘What do penguins and coral reefs have in common?’

Eurekamp Oz! kids

IOMRC research scientist and Kids Care About Climate Change Director, Dr Marji Puotinen said the drawings were all by kids aged four to 14 who drew what they love most about trees as a climate action to help penguins and coral reefs.

“The banner is off to Glasgow to the UN Climate Change Conference and so it was great for the kids to be able to unfurl it and look at all the different artwork. It led us off on some great conversations about what’s happening in the world of penguins and coral reefs, the earth’s early warning system in warming oceans,” Dr Puotinen said.

“Dr Bland also led the kids in each planting their own Australian native tree to take home. As a scientist, I’m highly committed to working with the arts. Science provides facts to speak to minds, but art and philosophy speak to the heart. Only with both can we achieve meaningful, positive change.”