At Experimentarium, in Denmark, small children aged 1 to 5 are getting introduced to the world of STEM in a new huge permanent exhibition.
It is never too early to get to know about science and technology. That is why Copenhagen’s Experimentarium is constructing a whole new 650 m2 exhibition area just for toddlers and small children.
“We are really looking forward to seeing how both boys and girls – and all different kinds of boys and girls – will welcome our new venture,” says Lisa Klöcker, exhibition developer.”
The exhibition area, called Miniverset (a contraction of ‘small’ and ‘universe’ in Danish), will open to the public in April 2018.
The activities cover a large range of STEM topics, but all placed in different settings that small children can either relate to or sparks their imagination. Among the topics are human biology, engineering, light/reflections and nature’s food chain. Most of the activities are the first o f their kind in the world, while a few others are inspired from various attractions and other leading science centers.
“When designing the Miniverse, we really had to constantly narrow our focus, as the kids most likely would give up if things got too complicated and not playful enough. At the same time, we have also been quite ambitious on their behalf – we really want to teach them something about the STEM-world by making use of their natural curiosity and playfulness,” the exhibition developer explains.
Take care of the teddy bears
In the Miniverse hospital, children get to know about the internal structure of a human. Thus, they get to x-ray a number of hospitalized teddy bears. It turns out that the fluffy bears are there for a reason – the x-ray scanner reveals that they all have a fracture, e.g. a broken leg or arm (the teddy bears actually have bones!). After this disclosure, the kids are encouraged to bandage the fracture correctly and make sure that the teddy bears are otherwise treated well back in bed.
In another part of the exhibition a huge area is covered with small caves and hideaways. Here visitors can play a game of prey and predators. They can dress out as foxes or moles and they can hide away from each other. The parents are encouraged to join the activity – and not just be bystanders.
Gone with the wind
Kids loves to build and construct. In a separate part of the Miniverse, toy bricks are used to make different constructions, but there is a constant ‘enemy’ – the wind. A number of large wind turbines are installed in one end of the room and the speed of the wind is software controlled. Sometimes it is almost calm weather, while at other times a storm will rise. As engineers, the kids will learn how well constructed their buildings are and how to weather the storm.
The room is designed so the 5-year-olds can really enjoy the action, while the smaller children still can be active, but not necessarily right up at the front, where the storm will be toughest.
“We are very much aware that children are different. We are not concerned if they are girls or boys, but we have designed around age and personality. To us it is more important to give children needing more safety a calmer place to unwind. And the ones with a high level of energy a place to really let loose.”
As an example, Lisa Klöcker points out that Miniverset includes four areas that offer a retreat in shielded off sofas (designed to be part of the scenography), complete with the exhibition’s very own and newly written STEM-related story books.
And when the children are ready for new adventures again they can return to the Magical Forest of Light or the Cave of Reflections or some of the other entrancing places in the exhibition.
Lisa Klöcker explains the grown-ups’ role in Miniverset:
“We want the grown-ups to explore the Miniverse together with the children. We call the grown-ups co-explorers – as they should be part of the interaction with the different activities, not just acting as explainers or sitting in the corner waiting for the children to finish. The Miniverse is all about being curious and playful together.”
Learn without words
Just like the rest of Experimentarium the Miniverse is designed for intuitive, hands-on dissemination. Perhaps even more so compared to the rest of Experimentarium, as the whole area is easily experienced without reading a single word. Instead STEM is taught through playing and sensing. “We don’t teach STEM, we build synapses through curiosity and exploring,” Lisa Klöcker explains.
“It’s all about jumping in, using your senses and your body. For children, this approach is completely natural, and we grown-ups can gain new perspective by joining them – adult brains are plastic too,” says Lisa Klöcker.