informal education

How to have a great day at a museum? Step into your kid’s (lunar-powered) shoes.

This post was written by Abigail Kutlas, who studies Learning Sciences at Northwestern University. This summer, Abigail is a museum intern and researcher in Washington, DC. Her research focuses on family engagement and accessibility for children with intellectual disabilities.

What would you invent to help someone see differently? Ask an eight-year-old and a thirty-eight-year-old and you’ll get very different answers.

When we posed this question to our visitors at the hands-on, maker-space-esque exhibit I work in, the youngest patrons were fountains of innovative ideas. They drew elaborate lunar-powered shirts, shorts, and shoes so soccer players could practice at night. They wanted to make a virtual reality headset so you could see information about your favorite constellations just by looking at them. One jokester even sketched carrots.

The answer I got nearly every time from grown-ups? Glasses. Nothing special or new, just glasses, like the ones perched on my own nose.  

Something similar happens when I watch kids sit down at a table with an open-ended prompt, like “How can you project an image onto a screen?” They start by sifting through every available material, and they work until they’ve found two or four or ten solutions, often using every Lego in sight. And most of the answers they come up with make sense, because they intuitively understand that lenses and light, in some combination, will help them reach their target.

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