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Steam Ahead Festival

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by Irenke Forsyth (subscribe)
A writer sharing travels, experiences, a love of festivals & events. Life is a journey and I hope to inspire others. Visit my blog at
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Go wild with all kinds of curiosities
An interactive, artistic and scientific extravaganza is coming to Western Sydney over one dynamic weekend that explores how we co-exist with nature. Destined for 7-12 year olds (and grown-ups), the festival brings art, science, technology, engineering and mathematics together in the most explosive ways.

Steam Ahead Festival, Bungarribee Park
Check out the roving creatures and the Crazy Science Lab

The Crazy Science Lab will literally be emitting eruptions through the air with bubbling CO2 canisters and pH experiments that explore the many forces of nature. From the pulsating pressure of chemicals and massive fog geysers to objects smashing due to being colder than any natural place on Earth, you'll discover why the world works as it does. Amazing magical potions appearing to change colour before your eyes, bubble geometry with giant bubble making and LEGO robotics, will have you in awe.

Other sights to behold can be found in the Forensics Lab where parents and children can collaborate as investigators to discover Who Dunnit? You can test fingerprints, footprints, bite prints and splatter patterns as well as learning about the art of pen ink chromatography. After data collection and sorting through evidence, determine who did the nasty deed or whether you need a lie detector test to solve the mystery and find the culprit.

Robotics Man Sam will be another crowd pleaser with his show involving circus, comedy, robotic puppetry and some very impressive stunts. It's high energy entertainment that also combines special effects and prop-making with electronic beats that set the scene for his dance routines and body popping. There's volunteer interaction and loads of laughs that lead to a climax of epic proportions.

Robotics Man, Steam Ahead Festival
Robotics Man is sure to impress

Code4Fun brings more enjoyment, providing children with the opportunity to learn the basics of writing code. It's the language of the present and the future and here they will be taught how to code flying drones to detect sharks, how to build computer games and how to solve real-world problems.

Those not into coding may want to try creating a weird and wonderful invention or two with the recycled and sustainable materials supplied in Loose Parts Play. Activating the imagination, one can explore waste management and other eco-friendly practices.

Our children have many great ideas to be shared and put in place. One such child is plant and ocean protector Molly Steer, the girl behind the 'Straw No More' campaign of removing single-use plastic straws. She will present her vision and invite you to consider your own role as a protector of the planet. Her campaign helped change local government policy, shifted a food giant into action and started a movement of hundreds of thousand individuals in schools, universities and businesses. The impact has been wide and it all started after she saw a film called A Plastic Ocean, which highlighted the epidemic of plastic pollution in the world's oceans. Only 9 years old at the time, it just goes to show what determination and some caring for the planet can do.

For those that want to develop their drawing and writing skills, then Nature Journaling with artist Leith Walton is an option that explores the riches and wonders of the natural world. With pencils and watercolours (provided) in hand, you'll be guided and aided in expressing your surroundings in your own unique way. You can bring a journal and make a small notebook for your sketches or finished works.

If you're into building things and want to attract wildlife to your home, then try one of these workshops

Microbat Hotels

Microbat, Steam Ahead Festival
Build a home for this cutie

With the help of educator Wahoo Business, entice the tiny microbat into your garden by creating a hotel habitat to take home. These native bats have an exceptional system of navigation and are experienced hunters. Eating up to 1200 mosquitoes an hour, they're welcome in my backyard anytime.

Solitary Bee Hive

Also, run by Wahoo Business, this workshop focuses on promoting native bees into your home garden through the building of a solitary beehive.

These vital pollinators are important in helping our wildflowers survive and increasing the yield of certain crops. With about 10% of Australia's bees known as 'social', meaning they form hives (with a queen) and are completely stingless, you can rest easy in that you're not setting your family up for numerous allergic reactions to stings.

Inertial Birds

You can also attract wildlife through folded paper birds with this workshop that involves building a hanging bird mobile for your garden or verandah. Using balance and inertia, the birds create an even peaceful movement.

Bird anatomy will be discussed, with the provided materials and tools allowing you to build interesting designs as part of this link between art and nature.

Inertial birds, Steam Ahead Festival
Paper birds attracting wildlife

Continuing on with paper art, you can also make some next level origami frogs. Using precision and patience, you'll create your own jumping frog from recycled train tickets and once ready you can challenge your friends with jumping competitions and other froggy games.

If you're into bugs, then drop into the Edible Bug Shop and find out about the nutritional value of bugs, how they're being used in popular restaurants and why they will play a bigger part in our diets in the future. You can also design your own edible insect product packaging, taste some bugs and even purchase some to take home.

Edible ant, Steam Ahead Festival
The Edible Tyrant Ant provides a unique citrus zing that explodes in your mouth

Don't fancy eating bugs for lunch? No worries, there will be food trucks and coffee carts onsite for all your regular needs.

Musically, you're in for something a little different to other festivals. The Vegetable Plot, a lively and earthy show, will have kids falling in love with veggies through the power of music and storytelling. On a mission of Love and Peas, songs will be filled with jokes and puns planting seeds of inspiration for years to come.

You can also make an Ocarina, a 12,000 year old clay instrument used by the Mayans, Aztecs and Chinese. Here you will use sticks, dirt, straws, stones and sculpting clay to mould a clay flute based on the 4-hole design that English mathematician John Watson developed in 1964. You will be guided through the steps to make it before taking it home with fingering notes of some popular tunes to play. It would certainly make an interesting talking point with visitors or a great 'show and tell' at school for kids.

Ocarina, Steam Ahead Festival
Not your usual flute

Cultivate your brain further with a Gen Zen Warriors activity session where you can become one with nature through a variety of mindfulness techniques, yoga postures and teachings that include breath, awareness, dance, relaxation, crafts, art, dance, games and the growth mindset.

On the topic of mindfulness, there's also Grow Your Mind which uses playful techniques to educate and empower children and families on the importance of mental health. The latest positive psychology and mindfulness research is used to instruct on the basics of the brain and help develop emotional regulation skills, amongst emotional literacy and resilience. Visit the stall to join a game of Giant Weeds & Flowers, a positive take on the Snakes & Ladders game.

Adding a splash of colour to the party are the giant roving praying mantis and ladybug stilt walkers that dance and bounce amongst the crowd, posing for photos as they go. Cameron, the inflatable Kiddiepillar, will provide additional fun for kids under 9yrs. They can enter through the caterpillar's mouth, move through the pop-ups and over the slide before exiting out of his tail.

Cameron the Kiddiepillar, Steam Ahead Festival
Playful fun for the young ones

Steam Ahead is essentially about collaborating, coding, tasting, touching, planting, making and creating. The above and more will have you learning real life skills, getting your hands dirty and getting wild all in the one location at Bungarribee Park in Doonside. Enjoy it from 9.30am-4.30pm, with free entry.

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When: 9.30am-4.30pm
Phone: 02 9839 6000
Where: Bungarribee Park, Cnr Doonside & Holbeche Rds, Doonside
Cost: Free entry
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