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STST = Science Toys : Science Tools

Exploring Natural Phenomena outside Science Centers

In an increasingly technological and networked world, raising awareness about natural phenomena is of social, economic and cultural interest. Such phenomena are strongly related to our experiences with and within the world and cannot be understood through simple factual knowledge – they must be experienced. The success of science centers like the Exploratorium (San Francisco, USA) or the Swiss Science Center Technorama (Winterthur, CH) is based on that insight. They focus on direct exploration of exciting and unfamiliar natural phenomena which are presented to the visitor in a fascinating and engaging way. What remains after the visit of one of these museums is not a final scientific explanation, but rather a sense of excitement and curiosity. Ideally this first excitement leads to a deeper involvement and thus to sustainable learning and cognitive processes.

The goal of the project «Science Toys = Science Tools» is to enable such direct exploration of natural phenomena outside the science center. We explore and create objects, processes and contexts through and in which such investigation can take place. Such toys and tools are similar to the exhibits in Technorama, but compact enough to investigate phenomena in their natural context. Therefore, the project aims to extend the learning experience beyond the borders of the science center and connect to natural processes in the world. Besides the concrete development of the science toys our motivation for the project is based on the following questions: What kind of creative and analytic learning processes could be triggered by such objects? Could an object lead to a self-explanation of natural phenomena? What kind of methods should be applied for the design of such objects? How could we develop a sustainable learning processes and business models for science centers, designer or natural scientists around the idea of Science Toys?

Project lead: Karmen Franinović

Research Team ZHdK: Michael Krohn, Moritz Kemper, Stefan Schneller, Clemens Winkler and Nicole Foelsterl

Research Team ZHAW partner: Adrian Burri, Peter Hug and Thomas Hunkeler