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University collaborates on Museum balance exhibition

Monday, 21 November 2016

Participants take part in some of the fun activities at the Well Balanced exhibition opening.

The Ageing Well National Science Challenge has teamed up with students in the University of Otago’s Centre for Science Communication and co-developed an interactive exhibit at the Otago Museum called “Well Balanced”.

Balance and strength change across our lifetime, but improvements can be made at almost any time – so the exhibition is about encouraging people to keep moving and to age well.

Designed to be a fun, interactive and educational experience for all ages, the exhibition consists of a series of activities based around strength and balance.

"It gave our Science Communication students an opportunity to put into practice what they are learning, and to work both with researchers in Ageing Well and the talented designers at the Otago Museum."

Participants can learn about and undertake activities with a Wii Fit, hula hoops, devices to test hand and trunk strength, challenges for nimble fingers and dexterity, and testing balance on a wobble board – all with the aim of testing and learning how to improve strength and balance.

University of Otago Associate Professor Debra Waters from the Ageing Well Management Directorate worked with Science Communication Professor Nancy Longnecker and 16 Science Communication postgraduate students on the project.

Associate Professor Waters and Professor Longnecker said the opening of the exhibition at the Otago Museum on 4 November was very successful, with everyone from children to older adults trying the different exhibits, having fun and learning more about their own strength and balance.

“This was a wonderful collaboration. It gave our Science Communication students an opportunity to put into practice what they are learning, and to work both with researchers in Ageing Well and the talented designers at the Otago Museum,” Professor Longnecker says.

“It was a great experience for the students who can see the fruits of their labour and watch how the public responds. It helped the researchers reach out to the community through the Museum. And the Museum benefited with this temporary exhibition by tapping into expertise on Ageing Well from the University and research and design from the Science Communication students.”

A unique experience for students and collaborators

The idea for the exhibition came about when Professor Longnecker raised the possibility of her Science Communications students producing a museum exhibit focused on ageing, as a requirement of a Science Communication Exhibitions and Interpretation paper. Associate Professor Waters liked this idea as a community-stakeholder outreach activity for the Challenge.

Both wanted the messages to be positive and agreed on an intergenerational exhibit that would be educational, interactive, fun and focused on strength and balance. The students then created the exhibits in collaboration with the Otago Museum design team over a two-month period.

About the Ageing Well National Science Challenge

The Ageing Well National Science Challenge (AWNSC), launched in March 2015, is based at the University’s Dunedin campus.

It is a national research collaboration involving the major New Zealand research groups in ageing research with expertise in public health, Māori and Pacific health, social science, biomedical science, clinical practice, population and community health, and health service provision.

The Challenge links with international networks, the two other Health Challenges and key funders to encourage collaboration, and to build and leverage capability and resources.

Its mission is to “push back disability thresholds to enable all New Zealanders to reach their full potential through the life course with particular reference to the latter years of life.”

Come along:

The Well Balanced exhibition is free, and runs until 29 January. It is a fun, interactive and educational exhibit for all ages and abilities with educational materials to take away.