In recent years, new interactive museum exhibits have captured the attention of visitors. To welcome a wider audience, some museums have incorporated videos, stations, and other engaging learning activities into their exhibits. The Parisian museum Cité des sciences et de l’industrie takes it one step further. Redefining “interactive exhibit,” this science museum presents their temporary children’s exhibition: “Playhuts.”
Rather than teach through text-based displays and language-driven modules, this exhibit gives children the freedom to follow their curiosity and explore a variety of forts and playhuts. Designed for two to ten year-olds, “Playhuts” focuses on sensorimotor experiences. This exhibition encourages children to physically discover every meter of the 500-square-meter space, from the dark astronomy tent to the beach huts to the designated build-your-own fort area. They can crawl through tunnels, climb in the forts, and touch every aspect of the exhibit. This hands-on experience not only encourages children to experiment with their five senses, but actively introduces children to the world of architecture and construction.
The Cité des sciences et de l’industrie first worked with child psychologists and ethnographers to conceptually develop an exhibit catered to children of all cultures. Then Universcience partnered with artists and craftsmen to design and create twenty unique forts and playhuts. The wide variety of architectural designs interests children at all stages in cognitive and social development.
Children fascinated by light and projection can explore the “Invisible cabin”: a fort constructed entirely from projected light. Kids can move white posters through the projections to discover what lies within this invisible fort: animated images.
Those who prefer exploring their sense of touch can enjoy the “Nets” and “The Traveler” playhuts – forts constructed from nets, ropes, and ribbons. Here, not only can children explore different textures, but they can experiment with knot tying.
In between the “Nets” and “The Traveler” forts, children can combine their senses of touch and hearing with the “Carboys” playhut. As they explore the dome-shaped fort constructed from empty, recycled water jugs, the little musicians can use the cylindrical jugs as drums to experiment with sound.
For the full multi-sensory experience, children can enter magical worlds in “The Boxes” and “The Cave” forts. The dimmed lighting, sound animations, and light projections create the perfect environment for unleashing their imaginations. As lights dance along the textured walls and paper dragons guard the entrance to caves, kids can invent their own games and stories. While the extroverted children enjoy the open, collaborative areas, those preferring the comfort of personal spaces often navigate to the small, themed, wooden cabins (Beach Cabins) or the individual cylindrical huts (Costumes). These playhuts offer a cozy, safe space among the energy and stimulation of the rest of the exhibit. Others looking for quiet time head to the “The Reader” – a reading corner constructed from books. After running, climbing, and crawling through the exhibit, kids enjoy cuddling with their parents in this quiet nook and reading a story.
The Playhuts exhibition encourages children to discover not only the structures around them, but themselves as well. One of most popular sections of this engaging exhibit resides in the center. Here, children use pool noodles, blankets (…), and the wooden structure cemented in this area to design and build forts perfect for them. Free to exercise their imagination and creativity, children enjoy the time and space to express themselves through their forts. In this process, kids can improve their sensory-motor skills and learn about their own abilities in construction. They discover not only the little architects within themselves, but also those within others. This central part of the exhibit offers the space for children to share their own structures and build forts with others.
With something for everyone, the Playhuts exhibition offers a space where children can be their own guides to learning. Kids lead their own experiences according to their curiosities and needs. Without predetermined rules and instructions, you would be surprised what children can create and discover.
This temporary exhibit is open at Cité des sciences et de l’industrie through January 5, 2020 and begins traveling in spring of
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Written by: Mackenzie Caputo – Universcience