Discovery Planet C.I.C. brings accessible, educational and creative experiences to the heart of the community
Who we are
Discovery Planet C.I.C. brings inspirational, enriching and creative experiences to the heart of communities. At the same time as providing an accessible way to learn, we animate public spaces and provide a focus around which organisations and individuals can pull together to make their local area a better place.
Since founders Xanthe Pitt and Nikki Hildesley first brought a planetarium to Ramsgate in 2013, well over 10,000 people have taken part in our interactive workshops, and many more have enjoyed the creative activities we deliver alongside each event to enable people to explore their learning in different ways.
We make sure we address barriers to participation, and weave our activities into people's everyday lives by popping up in unexpected places, such as empty shops, market stalls, and community halls. Events have included lie-detector testing and fingerprinting at Margate Magistrates' Court; eating insect-based foods from market stalls; and running a pop-up Chemistry Lab to explore how matter reacts to ultra-low temperatures. We have smashed flowers, put our heads in real clouds, eaten beetles and much more!
We have won a Heart of the Community Award from Kent Media and London Array; were commended in The National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement - Images of Public Engagement Awards; and have been featured as an example of best practice in a book published by Imperial College which can be found HERE
What we do
We pop-up in surprising places to bring accessible and enriching STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, & Maths) activities to the heart of the community. By bringing creativity and uncompromising production values to the table, we ensure that participants find learning an inspiring and fun-filled experience.
We collaborate with leading scientific institutions and industry professionals, to ensure that content is up-to-date, relevant and of the highest quality. Demonstrating the practical applications of science enables participants to relate it to their everyday lives and understand the career opportunities involved.
We partner with local grassroots organisations to reach audiences who would otherwise experience barriers to participation. We involve volunteers and try to keep our activities free or low cost. By developing a recognisable brand, we are able to persuade people to try things they might not otherwise consider, secure in the knowledge that they will have a great time.
SCROLL DOWN to take a look at some of the things we have done so far . . .
(photography by Pete Bateson)
This was our first ever event, funded by the Institute of Physics and inspired by Turner having exclaimed "The skies over Thanet are the loveliest in all Europe!" He was right! Over 400 people of all ages came to see the University of Kent's School of Physical Sciences deliver star shows in an inflatable planetarium in Ramsgate Town Centre. After the shows they got the chance to ask questions of real scientists conducting research into astrophysics. We dished out silver deely-boppers so that the streets would be filled with space visitors and everyone was given a cardboard planisphere to take away so that they could identify the constellations by themselves and share their learning with friends and family. Everyone got the chance to write a wish upon a star and these were displayed in the high street for several weeks afterwards, to create Ramsgate's own constellation and a heartfelt reminder of the event.
Snot Sick & Scabs and Teethtastic! Shows
In March 2015, to celebrate British Science Week, 600 local school children came to the Kings Theatre in Ramsgate to see exciting science shows delivered by London University's Centre of the Cell, called 'Snot, Sick and Scabs' and 'Teethtastic!'. The venue had been semi-closed for years, but we brought it to life again with laughter and learning. After the shows, they took part in a competition to make a drawing inspired by the show. The entries were displayed in local shops over the following week to prolong the fun.
Cliftonville Pop-Up: Cool Chemistry
In September 2015 we took over a huge empty bed shop on the Northdown Road, Margate and, after sticking up over 400 hand screen-printed paper plates, treated 750 local people to interactive liquid nitrogen workshops. Following the sessions, children were invited to imagine themselves as scientists and their drawings were displayed in shop windows for the coming week. There was quite a buzz on the street as the run-down premises were transformed into a colourful hive of activity, and billowing clouds could be seen through the huge windows. Even the shyest people couldn't resist the temptation to join in.
Night Sky Navigation
As part of the DCLG, Coastal Communities funded, Destination Thanet initiative to boost the visitor economy, we treated 400 people to planetarium shows from the University of Kent and an explanation of how the stars were once used to guide mariners. Visitors were then invited to follow a challenging treasure hunt around Ramsgate Harbour and spot some of its astonishing heritage features. We also placed a few historic characters played by members of a local theatre group along the way to bring history to life and foster a new found appreciation of the town and it's place over time. Thanks go out to the Christ Church congregation, RNLI, Sailors Church, St Augustine's Church, Thanet Stargazers, Ramsgate Tunnels and Blue Swift Gallery for collaborating to make this a wonderful weekend, and a true community affair.
As part of another Destination Thanet project, Super Sleuthing was the name of the day in July 2016. We collaborated with Margate Museum and submitted tourists and locals alike to lie detecting and fingerprinting. We also taught them how to identify forged documents using chromatography with some surprise results! We then gave people a tour around the Museums criminal highlights and put some suspects before the judge.. The project animated Margate Town Centre for residents and visitors and brought the Museum and its contents to life.
Thanet Space Lab
With a grant from the UK Space Agency, we took a two-week rocket trip into space and explored the impact of meteorites and space debris. We also found out what the 'Goldilocks Zone' is, and considered whether we could have saved the dinosaurs. This event attracted space fans from pensioners to pre-schoolers, with one little boy even arriving dressed for lift-off! There's now no reason why future space crews can't be made up of astronauts originating from Thanet.
Creepy Crawly Cuisine
This project took a look at climate change through the lens of food. We set market stalls in Ramsgate Town Centre and on a rural campsite, to offer passers-by some creepy crawly treats and entice them into a conversation about the future of food. With a growing population and less land available to grow food or raise livestock, what are we going to eat in years to come? We were joined by expert entomologists who explained how much protein there is in one little critter, and that we simply need to get over the 'yuk factor'! An academic review of our method of community engagement through this project was published in the journal Research for All and can be found HERE
Wind Turbines: What, Why, How?
There was so much to do at this Royal Academy of Engineering funded event. We teamed up with the University of Kent, wind farm operators Vattenfall and London Array, and a group of fantastic engineers volunteering with the STEM Ambassador Programme to offer a whole building full of activities. After learning how electricity is generated, participants selected junk modeling materials and were helped to design and build their own turbines. They could also experience some cutting-edge technology and feel what it was like to visit an offshore wind farm up close using virtual reality equipment. Young people were able to learn about routes into engineering or jobs in renewable energy at all all levels - from apprenticeships to postgraduate entry. Cliffs Cafe served up a mean coffee too.
In a Heartbeat
We took over the spectacular, grade 2* listed, Theatre Royal, Margate and invited Queen Mary College, London University's Centre of the Cell down to the seaside to give four shows all about the heart and how to keep it healthy. The blood-red velvet seating and ornate golden plasterwork was the perfect backdrop. Afterwards, people made healthy heart pledges into a colourful display. No more fried chicken, McDonalds or sweets ... let's see how long those pledges last!
August 2016 saw us setting up the University of Kent's planetarium again at the Turner Contemporary Art Gallery for a look at the cosmos, followed by an activity exploring colour and using a similar technique to that used by scientists to discover the gas content of stars. The chromatography discs we produced were ethereally beautiful.
Discovery Planet kick-started the 2018/19 academic new year with an event to explore the highly topical theme of plastic. Scientists from Kent University’s School of Physical Sciences delivered the free sessions, which consisted of four workshops to make an in-depth examination of the issue through hands-on activities and experiments. They particularly considered the exciting role of chemistry and chemists in the future of plastic. The first session incorporated a beach clean and sorting the findings to contribute data to the Marine Conservation Society’s National Survey, ‘Beachwatch’ and the remaining sessions were held at the iconic Dreamland theme-park.
Daniel Webb of Everyday Plastic came and talked to participants about his year of saving every plastic item he used, which provided context and added impact. His website is here .
Science in the City Festival
We were invited by the British Science Association to partner with them and deliver a surprise pop-up event in Ramsgate Town Centre. We did exactly that, by popping up with three market stalls that nobody could miss; a liquid nitrogen interactive Flash Freeze stall, Super Sleuth Fingerprinting and Porky Pie Detection. There were some sweaty palms as people got wired up for an interrogation by their family members!
Newington Best Fest, Thanet
Our market stalls come in useful, so we took them out to a local community fair one hot summer's day to liven up proceedings. Best lie detector question - 'Did you take any money out of the jar above the fireplace?' Newington is an area of Ramsgate identified by The National Lottery as being in need of additional funding, and Newington Best Fest was laid on through the Newington Big Local regeneration programme.
Trickle Down Economics Marble Run
Politicians might tell you otherwise, but research has shown that the theory of trickle-down economics doesn't really work. Even Margate school children know that now; and they made an amazing marble run to show where they would like money and resources to be diverted, to make their town a better place to live for everyone. I'd vote for any one of these clued-up future leaders!
We went to visit Benedict Drew's exhibition, 'The Trickle Down Syndrome' at the Whitechapel Gallery at the time and enjoyed his take on it.
One Stop Chemistry Shop
4 weeks; 48 science workshops; 2,348 visitors. Huge thanks to the Royal Society of Chemistry for bringing such huge science fun to Ramsgate! We covered Stellar Spectroscopy, CSI Science, Exciting Electricity and Super Polymers. Additionally we rebuilt Ramsgate from playdough and made an animation of the activity which you can see in the 'Extras' section of this website. We also tried out chromatography and drew wanted posters, made cards with simple electrical circuits that lit up and made shadow pictures. Phew!
Become a Gene-ius!
Three market stalls, each manned by representatives from a different institution: The Royal College of Pathologists, Royal Society of Biology, and Genetics Society. Passers-by were surprised to find that they could play Twin Bingo and learn about epigenetic changes, make bracelets to represent the genetic code which dictates their eye colour, and understand the importance of genetic variation.
We're going to make a big SPLASH in Ramsgate in 2021
so watch this space !
Our Funding Partners
We are fortunate enough to have been funded by The Royal Society of Chemistry, Institute of Physics, British Science Association, UK Space Agency, Department of Communities and Local Government - Coastal Communities Fund, Thanet District Council, Big Lottery, Ramsgate Town Team, Resort Studios via the Arts Council, and the Royal Academy of Engineering
Our Delivery Partners
We work with a range of scientists, institutions, industry representatives, researchers and STEM Ambassadors to make sure that the content of our workshops is high quality, up-to-date and relevant to what is happening in the world today. We also work with a large number of local organisations to help us facilitate the events, add value to the content and build up their own capacity. So far we have worked with partners who include the University of Kent's School of Physical Sciences, QMUL's Centre of the Cell, Royal College of Pathologists, Royal Society of Biology, Turner Contemporary, Genetics Society, STEM Ambassador Programme Representatives, Dreamland, Arts in Ramsgate, Theatre Royal Margate, Everyday Plastic, Margate Women's Institute, Thanet Coast: NE Kent Marine Protected Area, Vattenfall and London Array
Thank you so much for Night Sky Discovery this weekend, it was an absolute joy from start to finish... Thank you so, so much, we absolutely love everything you have done and really appreciate the quality and effort that go into these shows.
Absolutely love everything you guys do! We so enjoyed today's planetarium, John always has a fab time as do I. Thank you all.
Always different science topics, but always brilliantly presented for all ages (including us parents!)
Can't wait for the next instalment...
“I just wanted to say a huge thank you for organising these events as most of our students have found them very interesting and I believe have learnt from them which can only be a good thing….Please keep me informed of any sessions/events you will be running in the future, … as I really want to start raising the profile of Science at my school where it has been historically neglected for years.”
Headteacher, school for children with special educational needs.
"I didn't know...flowers could smash like glass. That was cool!"
Cool Chemistry participant
"it was great for the kids to have access to demonstrations I couldn't normally provide"
Home educator parent
I am still so excited every time I attend one of your events ... as a parent I could never explain these concepts to my son- these events inspire a whole new generation..."
Unsolicited letter from a participant
Thanks to everyone involved in putting on such a great event. I took my 4 year old son and my mother, and all of us really enjoyed it. Very informative, professional and fun. Plus added bonus of delicious cakes and coffee after (def a winner for us mums!). My little boy now wants to learn more about space and the stars. Well done everyone xxxxx
Night Sky Navigation participant
What is STEAM?
STEM + Art = STEAM
Many employers today demand creative and design skills in combination with technical skills, pointing to the importance of STEAM education for young people coming into the workforce. A briefing paper recently published by NESTA, and which can be found HERE, underlines the importance of promoting the fusion of arts, sciences and technology right through the talent pipeline. Additionally, there is evidence that such fused skills show up in better economic performance – businesses that make use of both arts and science skills show higher levels of growth and innovation than companies that don’t. A research report produced by NESTA and providing evidence to support this can be found HERE .
Discovery Planet’s creative approach to the delivery of STEAM workshops, and the integration of arts activities into our offer, is therefore well aligned with current thinking, and actively promotes the concept to underserved audiences, in the hope that we can help to inspire the next generation of innovators.
We highly recommend a trip to London’s Science Gallery, where connections between art, science and health are dazzlingly made, as part of a global Science Gallery network.
Colour Cosmos Promo Turner Contemporary July 2016
Rebuilding Ramsgate at One Stop Chemistry Shop 2015
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