Research laboratory for little discoverers

When even the youngest children are conducting research, it's all about the 'discovery corner' ("Spürnasenecke"). The aim of the popular research laboratory, which now works intensively with 28 nurseries all over Salzburg, is to spark and foster the natural interest that children have in the sciences. With over 70 exciting experiments, which have been compiled in a handy guide, the discovery corner offers even the youngest of children the opportunity to discover phenomena from our own living environment through play under expert guidance.

Science training seminar at W&H headquarters in Bürmoos
Science training seminar at W&H headquarters in Bürmoos

This unique concept was developed by Bernadette Unger (secondary school science teacher and nursery teacher), Dr Konrad Steiner (science teacher at a vocational school) and Dr Gunther Seidl (retired chemist). Then, Grödig-based medical technology company Tecan took up the concept and started supporting it in 2010. Since the start of this year, family company W&H Dentalwerk Bürmoos GmbH has been the main sponsor. The first science training seminar for nursery teachers, which took place at W&H headquarters on 30 March 2016, marked the official start of the mutual exchange of experiences as well as the further development of the discovery corner concept.

The focus of the discovery corner is on allowing children the freedom to test out many different laws of nature under expert supervision. The starting point for this is the fact that children are natural researchers and discoverers. "Seemingly abstract school subjects such as maths, physics and IT will become more like second nature to those children who engage with the sciences at an early age.

Investigating scientific questions using all the senses (Photo: Chris Hofer)
Investigating scientific questions using all the senses
(Photo: Chris Hofer)
Valuable instructions enable the experiments to be conducted in a fun and purposeful manner
Valuable instructions enable the experiments to be conducted in a fun and purposeful manner

The discovery corner is the ideal formula for this, enabling children to learn all about the sciences through the means of play," W&H's Managing Director Peter Malata explains. Young technological talent represents a major factor for success for W&H. "If, as an industrial company, we need new technological talent, we also need to step in and do something to actively foster it," Malata adds. Together with the municipality of Bürmoos, W&H has already provided the nurseries in Bürmoos with the financial support required to set up a discovery corner. In the neighbouring municipality of Lamprechtshausen, too, the dental manufacturer has joined forces with Sigmatek GmbH & Co KG and the municipality of Lamprechtshausen to establish a research laboratory in the nursery located there. W&H has been the main sponsor of the discovery corner since the start of 2016, with the systematic further development of the project and the exchange of valuable educational approaches and concepts forming the main focus of W&H's activities.


The first science training seminar

Diligent research and experimentation was the focal point of the first science training seminar for nursery teachers, which took place at W&H headquarters on 30 March 2016. Approximately 30 interested participants made the most of this opportunity to familiarize themselves with experiments that had been selected from the discovery corner of the fields of biology, physics and chemistry, under the supervision of Bernadette Unger, Dr Gunther Seidl and other experts. In addition to high-quality, child-friendly furniture, a handy guide containing more than 70 sets of instructions for experiments is also among the research laboratory equipment. From gummy bear glue to a sun-powered water heater and an altimeter, the discovery corner provides the opportunity to experience and learn all about the laws of nature, materials, chemical relationships and technical matters.

Elli, the researcher squirrel mascot
Elli, the researcher squirrel mascot

During the W&H training seminar, experiences were shared and methods for successfully transferring knowledge were put forward. Interactive training sessions were held, in which the participants received valuable instructions for how to run the experiments in a fun and purposeful manner. Understanding connections and sparking children's interest in scientific topics outside of the typical high-pressure classroom environment is the main focus of the discovery corner concept.

W&H main sponsor of the discovery corner
Pictured (from left to right): Dr Gunther Seidl (retired chemist), Dr Konrad Steiner (science teacher at a vocational school), Bernadette Unger (secondary school science teacher and nursery teacher), Daniela Malata (member of the W&H Executive Board), Peter Malata (Managing Director of W&H) and Dr Michael Reiter (Head of Product Management at W&H)

"Studies show that children who are introduced to science at an early age are already able to gain surprising insights and develop astonishing thinking strategies," Bernadette Unger explains. The discovery corner allows even the youngest of children to learn through play just how exciting it can be to discover and research things. During the training seminar, W&H Managing Director Peter Malata highlighted that adequate access to the 'MINT' subjects is already lacking in schools. The goal has to be to use suitable methods to ensure that we do not shy away from these subjects.

As the new main sponsor of the discovery corner, W&H wants to make an important contribution towards sparking children's enthusiasm and curiosity for science in the future.