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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Confucius Says


Tell me and I will forget

Show me and I will remember

Involve me and I will understand


I began being interested in Science Centers when my husband George became the first Director of the Centennial Centre of Science & Technology [now the Ontario Science Centre] in 1964. At that time there were very few Science Centers in the world and, because I was a scientist, I had the good fortune to be commissioned to accompany him to Europe to tour those that existed in Scotland, England, France, Germany and Russia. While George talked to the Directors and staff, I took pictures and made notes of exhibits that I thought were attractive and worth copying or adapting.

I was really in my element - having a good time I didn't have to pay for and doing something useful. I remember one occasion especially when I had a Eureka moment while visiting the huge Deutsches Museum of Science & Technology in Munich. That day I had wandered through a number of large galleries with models of boats and airplanes and submarines and large skeletons of mastodons with lots of long labels. The exhibits were all static and there seemed to be few visitors. Even though I was very impressed, I found I wasn't reading the labels and hadn't made a single note. Then all at once I noticed a little gaggle of people in one corner of a gallery and, attracted by their animation, naturally I had to investigate.

The group were engaged in dropping ordinary maple seeds down a big open ended glass tube and watching how they spun around as they fell and interfered with each other when several were dropped at the same time. It was such a simple experiment, but it was the only one in the whole enormously expensive museum that was hands-on - where the visitors could be involved in their own learning. I took a picture of that one, read the label and made notes. In my final report I wrote at the very beginning: All exhibits must be hands-on.

I may have read what Confucius said, but I didn't really understand how wise he was until my Eureka moment in the Deutsches Museum. Rie

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