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How Interactive Exhibits at Children’s Museums can Help Children to Learn

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Firstly, when creating a museum exhibit aimed specifically at kids, we want it to be engaging and fun. Through achieving both of these goals, we then achieve the main outcome of learning. Even as adults, we learn much faster if we are engaged and interested, so why should it be any different for little ones?

We were all kids once upon a time…

It’s always nice to think that both adults and children will have learned something through one of our interactive exhibits in a museum. Through multi-player functionality, we can really help engage the whole family, especially if there’s a competitive edge, where kids can get one-up on Mum or Dad. In my opinion, it’s crucial for any family-based exhibit to have a learning outcome pay-off aimed at both children and adults. After all, who doesn’t like learning new things?

Now it’s also important to make sure we strike the balance between fun and educational. Too much fun and it’s no longer about learning. Too educational and kids might feel like they’re back at school. We do this by creating a gameplay environment, which could be either a physical interactive, or something more virtual or screen-based. By using gameplay techniques, we can create such a fun feel, visitors might even forget they’re learning while they play. Having an end goal of a learning outcome is essential for our museum clients, and we help them achieve it the Technically Creative way.

Although its great creating fun for the whole family, generally, we really want to capture the kids’ imagination first and foremost. There are certain techniques that we can use to grab children’s attention and get them involved with the learning experience. Anything which has buttons, wheels, dials, can be pressed, turned, or physically grabbed on to, usually goes down a storm with children. Flashing lights or a changing image on a screen can really help to attract children to the exhibit. Of course, the same applies for anything touchscreen-based, where the user can be in control of the gameplay and learning outcomes.

It’s not all fun and games…

There are some challenges to creating museum exhibits specifically for children. We’ve got to make sure that our interactives can cater for different learning styles, ages, attention spans and personalities. The rule of thumb for any exhibit should always be: Keep it short and snappy. Text instructions and information should be kept at a minimum, we don’t want to over-face anybody. To make any information easier to read, we make sure that we use bullet points with short snippets of information. As a society, we are so used to quick fixes, with access to information at our fingertips. We believe that using a mixture of formats, like films, images, and audio clips can make sure we appeal to a wider range of people. No one should be spending more than 5-10 minutes at any one exhibit; people have homes to go to!

We’ve worked on tonnes of children’s exhibits in the past. At Thinktank, Birmingham’s award-winning science museum, we created a mini-building site using a hoist and foam bricks. We also made a bucket Shute, where bricks could be emptied down below. This taught the children about how gravity works, and the building trade, at the same time. They could even build their own house, using the prebuilt foundations we laid. The top of the hoist was also attached to a giant Helter Skelter slide. There’s no wonder it proved to be immensely popular!

At the SAASCC we created a rocket flight simulator, where users got to take off and jet into space. It was actually quite challenging (even as an adult!) to take off quickly enough and follow the relevant flight path. This interactive had great software and looked visually stunning. I’ve even seen a few Dads having a go, pretending to be pilots and spacemen. Never grow up!

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