Dusty exhibits, stuffy guides and boring facts – this is the image that many people have of science museums the world over, but is it the reality in today’s education, education, education climate?
Yes, says a PhD student in his doctoral dissertation entitled ‘the missing link in learning science centres’.
Vaike Fors, from the University of Technology in Sweden, says that this is the reason that so many children stop going to science museums when they are 13, and might go some way to explain why teenagers see a trip to the science museum as a punishment rather than a treat.
He explains: “Teenagers feel that a major component is missing in exhibits if they are to be used for meaningful activities. Teens are looking for ways to contribute to the meaning of activities in exhibits and finding opportunities for self-development.”
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Whether it is a lack of ‘opportunities for self development’ or the fact that skateboards and alcopops aren’t allowed in most museums, it does seem to be the case that many science centres have few teenage visitors.
However, UK science museums have vastly improved many of their exhibits in recent years, and many new exhibits have been specifically targeted to a younger audience.
Becky Chetley, of the Natural History Museum, told Laboratory News: “We offer a lot of exhibits and activities for this age range, For example, our Darwin Centre Live events programme which is hosted by scientists and science communicators and gives teenagers a great opportunity to contribute.”