Children are natural born scientists. When children discover why and how something is so, they are behaving like scientists. Discovering science, exploring science and applying scientific principles can happen anywhere, including play opportunities in the exhibits and programs at DuPage Children’s Museum. Our job is to ensure that your child has many opportunities to explore and experiment through play in the exhibits and programs at DCM.
The exhibits at DCM are thoughtfully and intentionally designed to promote critical thinking, problem solving and the ability to think creatively. More specifically, the exhibits in AWEsome Air were intentionally designed to promote the development of scientific thinking. Scientific thinking involves questioning, predicting, trying, analyzing and retrying.
When conducting research in preparation for designing the exhibits in air we discovered that children have many misconceptions about air the largest being that they don’t understand that wind is air that moves. They think of air as being magical and unpredictable. Because air is invisible, children may not think or ask questions about it. However, it was our intention that the exhibits in AWEsome Air would provide our visitors the freedom to use misunderstandings about air as powerful starting points in constructing new and more accurate knowledge.
During the initial development phase of AWEsome Air, we also discovered other common misconceptions about air. Some children showed confusion about the interplay between objects in air. How do objects move in air? There was confusion about why air moves and what air pressure is. A common denominator with air play is that children were learning that air has power. This became a good starting point in developing experiences for children.
Play in the Museum
A child playing with the wind pipes is discovering that the air coming through the tube has an effect on the scarf. The air is moving around the scarf so fast that the scarf stays partially inside the tube – a scientific principle known as the Bernoulli effect. Not only can they observe the movement, they can also discover that a strong air pressure makes a noise. They can feel the force of the air if they put their hands in front of the air wands. When children make connections with air and wind through play, they often recall these connections when they learn about scientific principles later in school. Children (and adults) who play with this exhibit use ideas about air as starting points in constructing knowledge.
A child experimenting is the Wind Tunnel might be playing with and making discoveries about light and heavy objects. Try asking your child how strong does the air flow have to be to get an object to float?
We’re not done yet! Learning how children learn as they play and experiment in our exhibits is something we dedicate a lot of time to. We are continually doing observations to see which types of materials have the greatest impact on children’s inquiries and we can best support this process.
We would love to hear about your observations of your own children experimenting in AWEsome Air! Please comment here, on Facebook or Twitter.