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Playing to learn
March 05, 2013 COMMENT comment
     
Playing to learn
By Purva Bhatia
 
It's not a school; it's not a play area. Stellar Children's Museum in Gurgaon is first of its kind edu-recreational centre in India that stresses on explaining logic to young minds. Parents need to understand the importance of engaging with the kids and explaining logic to them.
 
Tword 'museum' gives you an image of a building with objects of historical, scientific or cultural significance but located in the swanky Ambience Mall in Gurgaon, this large area is far from it. It looks more like a fun play area for kids they have in malls these days. However, it is neither, claims the owner. "Much more than a play area," says Anjana Menon, creative director, Stellar Children's Museum "It is India's first edu-recreational museum."

"All around the world, there are these Children's Museums that offer an interesting place for children to play, interact, learn and discover the world around them in exciting ways. They are so significant that young parents prefer locating around such a centre," she explains. Modelled around those, Stellar Children's Museum is first of its kind in India,
 owned by Menon and her husband Akshay Sethi who upon returning from the US after seven years couldn't find any such space for their twin tots.
 
Not Just a Play Area
Spread over 10,000 sq ft, the centre has 50 exhibits and is divided into seven zones that engage kids in various learning concepts through arts and crafts, science and experiments, design and construction, geography and culture, pretend play and social skills and adventure and investigation. It has been prudently designed by Chicago-based RedBox Workshop, which has designed several children's museums, zoos and activity centres.
 
The seven galleries – Invent It, Build It, Discover It, Live It, Create It, Splash It and Theatre – aim to make kids understand various concepts like gravity, aerodynamics and magnetism through games. For instance, there's a Bernoulli Table, which uses tubes and blowers to change air direction and make objects float, spin and dive, explaining the concept of aerodynamics.

The 'Build It' area allows young minds to investigate the applied sciences by combining
 and rearranging components to alter existing objects or create new objects with simple machines and other tools. Then, there's an art and crafts area; a gallery for role-play and self expression; and areas like a little Market, where the clerk sorts the fresh produce from the nearby Planting Fields into baskets to be sold. Also, the centre ties up with schools nearby to hold workshops for science, theatre, storytelling, et cetera.
 
But why in a mall? "Adequate parking space and the required infrastructure can be found only in malls," Menon says.
 
Dealing with a child's psychology
To explain the concepts to the kids, there are "educators" who have knowledge of the curriculum taught at schools and have an understanding of the emotional and academic aptitude of children.
 
The model of the centre is such that parents should accompany the kids so that they can explain the concepts in a way kids would understand. And that is how it is in such museums around the world. However, in India the scenario is a little different. "We do not encourage unsupervised kids and tell parents to join in. But mostly, they send maids or caretakers to supervise them," quips Menon. So, is there a problem of this being perceived as just another play area? "Yes, to some extent. Parents need to understand the importance of engaging with the kids and explaining logic to them. When we say edu-recreational, it does not mean that kids will spend a couple of hours here and walk out educated about the concepts here. The underlying objective is to explain reasoning and logic while they are at play," asserts Menon. "So, our educators stress on 'let's try that' or 'what do you think we can do' instead of 'do this' or 'didn't I tell you' like a lot of impatient parents tell their kids," she chuckles. Need no 'education'? We hear you kids!
 
Best suited for:
Two to eight-year-old children
Opening Hours:
10.00 am to 8.00 pm
Location:
Ambience Mall, Gurgaon
Admission fee:
Rs 600, includes one child and one accompanying adult
Annual membership fee:
Rs 15,000

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