Review of Science Works Nitty Gritty Super City

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Contact details and description of organisation

Science works (part of Museum Victoria)

Science works and Melbourne Planetarium 2 Booker Street, Spotswood VIC 3015.

Phone: 03 9392 4800. It can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

Open daily 10am -4:30pm daily.

Adult $10 children (3-16) and concession free (temporary exhibitions extra)

Nitty Gritty Super City

                Children are ‘natural’ scientists, who endlessly explore, investigate, experiment and ask questions (Young & Elliott, 2003), Science works embraces this idea and in particularly the Nitty Gritty Super City exhibition where 3 to 8 year olds can explore science in the city. It is an interactive permanent exhibition set in a mini city; divided into 10 city themed sections where through play, children develop the science process skill of observation, classification and communication (Museum Victoria, 2009). A self guided kinder program is available, 1 hour of learning about science processes and communication for a maximum of 60 children with an $11 booking fee. (10 posters are sent out after booking with photos, learning outcomes, pre-visit questions, post-visit questions and things to do during the visit to maximise the learning benefit of this excursion, see appendix for example)

                Disabled access includes tactile experiences for the blind and low vision visitors in the Nitty Gritty Super City, tactile indicators in the lift to access the exhibition space and wheel chair access and use available.

 Reflection

                To enter the Nitty Gritty Super City you have to cross a bridge and go through a child proof security gate; there is one at each end of the exhibition and the space is upstairs set apart from the other exhibitions, thus encouraging parents to let their children roam freely around the space. This openness also reflects on the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework’s outcome four: children are confident and involved learners when they are given the possibility to be actively involved in their own learning, helping them to build on their understanding of concepts, creative thinking and inquiry process needing for the rest of their lifelong learning (Department of Education, 2009).
                 Upon entering the space you can see it has been designed differently from the rest of Science works, exhibits are lower down, the focus is the doing and not reading about it, (although there is natural signage imbedded in the exhibition) and children are encouraged to explore the space at their own pace and self guided. There is a large road running from one end to the other to introduce you to the city theme, with the large town hall clock in the middle. The different sections are spread out on both sides of the road with good spacing and flow from one area to the next. Overall it is a very inviting space for young children, with hidden areas and rooms to explore along with a more open plan central space (see appendix 1).

‘The beauty of exploration or ‘scientific play’ is its responsiveness to children’s immediate concerns and interests, promoting excitement, awe and wonder thus encouraging the curiosity the need to become active scientists’ ( Davies & Howe, p 121, 2003)

                When I visited this exhibition I went with 2 four year old boys and I was curious to see which of the 10 areas they would be interested in and would they understand the learning objectives that were aimed at in these spaces. There were 3 sections that they spent most of their time; the ‘build it’ and ‘getting around’ space and also in the ‘cafe’ area, I would like to focus my reflection on these 3 areas; how they relate to the learning outcomes set in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, and then give a brief overview of the others 7 spaces.

 Exhibition sections

Build it

                This exhibit includes activities such as: choose the right tool, build an arch bridge, build a sculpture, lift the bucket, lift a pile of bricks, build a wall and drive the digger.

                This was one of the most popular sections on the day I visited and I saw both the parents and children really getting a lot out of this space. There were a number of activities that worked best when the children worked and played together encouraging their interpersonal development. There was a lot of technology learning explored through simple machines and tool use and it also had some great examples and simple demonstrations of how pulleys, wheels and levers worked. The build it area helps develop children’s sense of autonomy and agency through encouraging both physical and mental challenges, facilitating new discoveries and furthering children’s sense of identity as explored in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (Department of Education, 2009). This area was very popular to the boys due to its construction site theme and it would have been nice to make it a little bit more inviting to both sexes.

Get around

                This area involves activities including: move that cargo, wheel and rudder, hoist a flag, inspect the cargo and a penny farthing bike.

                There is an excellent boat the ‘Little Yarra’ in this space that introduces a number of nautical themes and vocabulary to children in a fun and interactive way. It explores the different parts of the boat including the rudder, the ship’s flag and the loading and unloading of cargo. It generated a lot of pirate play and adventures on the sea the day that I visited, helping to develop the children’s linguistic abilities and vocabulary (see appendix 2). This area is also really interesting for the kinaesthetic involvement of the children in activities that children would not normally be allowed to play such as the loading and unloading of cargo on a ship. It was also excellent with its exciting and challenging learning experiences giving the children a real sense of achievement and perseverance to have a go thus promoting a sense of wellbeing (Department of Education, 2009).

Cafe

                This section includes a cafe with kitchen and counter, a Pianola, what is it made from? exploration boxes (see appendix 3) and1960s food advertising posters.

                This is another example of allowing the children control in a tactile play that they would not usually be allowed to explore. In this cafe the children are allowed behind the counter and put in control of how they perceive runs a coffee shop. The counter and kitchen accessories have been lowered to a child appropriate height so they feel a lot more at ease in this space. Everything is at an accessible level and in fact it is the parents that look out of place. There are unlimited possibilities for the children to act out and reflect on what they have seen in their own coffee shop experiences. The children I had with me took great pleasure in taking orders from behind the counter and playing with the coffee machine, this play helps them towards developing a sense of community, participating collaboratively in a familiar routine and having the opportunity to contribute to decisions (Department of Education) There was even a moment of cultural awareness with my son offering my husband a croissant as he is French!

                I felt the variety and quality of the pretend food was a bit of a negative and as much as I liked the educational aspect of the ‘what is it made from? exploration boxes where children learnt where food came from and not the supermarket, unfortunately the children I was with were so enthusiastically involved in the cafe they did not really show any interest in them.

Look out

                A space that includes views of the Westgate Bridge, exploring other bridges and a spot the difference game. This area explores a common children’s interest of bridges and being able to observe the workings of the Westgate just out of the window using binoculars is a great example of mathematical exploration along with spatial learning.

Melbourne model

                A large LEGO model of the CDB and inner suburbs that using lights one can highlight particular landmarks around the city. It is a great way to explore the concepts of maps and help children to understand the layout of a city and situate themselves within it.

Town hall clock

                The clock has both face and hands and digital clock

Recyclatron

                Exploring themes such as: what can be recycled? Inside the recycling factory, how magnets move steel, sorting paper; separating small from big, using air to sort light from heavy and why recycling is useful. This section offers a very tactile approach to learning about recycling and learning about environmental issues.

Music bowl

                Join the band, children learn about the sounds of different instruments and through making music, high and low notes are explored using different sized instruments

Creatures

                A section to explore everything creature including: animal evidence: who has been here? Night sounds, microscopic views, a log crawl through, bird spotting in Melbourne and mini-beasts. Using senses children explore the animal world, listening, observing and categorising. 

Weather station

                Here children can make a weather report, make a weather story, learn about weathers sayings and how we measure weather.

Pre and post visit activities

                Simply providing a set of resources within a stimulating environment is not enough. There needs to be a planned sequence and the value of any experience should also be judged on its potential for future pathways (Davies & Howe, 2003). The Nitty Gritty Super City experience is a great way to approach science, technology and environment learning for early childhood education and as I previously reflected on 3 areas within the exhibition and I would now like to revisit them with some pre and post visit questions and activities.

Build it pre-visit and post visit ideas

  • What tools can you find at home?
  • What things can you build using tools?
  • The inclusion of wheelbarrows in the outdoor area
  • Providing lots of tool based materials, such as tools, screws and bolts
  • Scales with different types of weight materials
  • Simple pulleys
  • Lots of building block materials
  • Gadget and loose material boxes
  • Exploring how simple machines work, their insides
  • Cubby materials
  • Exploring construction sites
  • How do boats float?
  • Where do boats go?
  • How can we travel?
  • How did we travel before cars and planes?
  • Lengths of rope
  • Flag making materials
  • Map making
  • Water play with boats
  • Different modes of transport
  • Where can we go if we don’t want to eat at home?
  • What’s the difference between a cafe and a restaurant?
  • What do you do in a cafe?
  • Who works in a cafe?
  • Various cooking activities both real and pretend indoor and outdoors
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Play dough, clay and other tactile materials
  • Cash registers and money play
  • Exploring healthy food, processed, raw, growing food etc.

Get around pre-visit and post-visit ideas

  • How do boats float?
  • Where do boats go?
  • How can we travel?
  • How did we travel before cars and planes?
  • Lengths of rope
  • Flag making materials
  • Map making
  • Water play with boats
  • Different modes of transport

Cafe pre-visit and post-visit ideas

  • Where can we go if we don’t want to eat at home?
  • What’s the difference between a cafe and a restaurant?
  • What do you do in a cafe?
  • Who works in a cafe?
  • Various cooking activities both real and pretend indoor and outdoors
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Play dough, clay and other tactile materials
  • Cash registers and money play
  • Exploring healthy food, processed, raw, growing food etc. 

Conclusion

                “Our job as a practitioner is to select the ‘best’ time and words to use in encouragement and challenge” to help guide children to develop their investigative skills (Davies & Howe, p 121, 2003).Science works and The Nitty Gritty Super City have tried to facilitate the development of children’s investigative skills and a visit to Science works offers an endless amount of pre and post visit activities for good quality early childhood development. It ignites and stimulates children’s interests in both familiar and new challenges but due to its self guided layout and as with any good ‘interactive’ approach it should be used in conjunction with educator’s input, where both the educator and child have an active role in facilitation learning (Young & Elliott)

References

 

Davies, D and Howe, A. (2003) Teaching Science, Design and Technology in the Early Years, London : David Fulton.

Department of Education and Early Childhood Development . (2009). Victorian Early Years Learning and development Framework. Melbourne: Early Childhood Strategy Division, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development , and Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority.

Museum of Victoria. (2009) Nitty Gritty Super City Education Kit, An Adventure with Science and Technology for Young Learners. Victoria, Science works.

Young, T and Elliott, S. (2003) Just Investigate! Science and Technology Experiences for Young Children. Croydon VIC, Tertiary Press.

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