Now that Lyddie is seven, we’ve decided to get out and about a bit more, to facilitate her learning. So we visited Magna – the ‘science adventure centre’ last week, pricey though it was. I’d taken the older children there quite a few years ago and remembered that it seemed good for them, so – with Lyddie’s interest in science, thought it might be the best place to start with her.
Housed in an old steel foundry, Magna uses mostly interactive displays to demonstrate principles relating to the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. There’s a separate section for each, reached from a series of dramatically dark, clanging steel gantries. Signature pieces include the fire tornado:
and the outdoor ‘scientific’ play area:
So, was it worth the money, time and effort (an hour’s drive on the M62 and down the M1, for us adding up to something like a five-hour long outing)? I’m not sure. We took Tom, to be on hand if Lyddie had any questions of a scientific nature – but she didn’t. He kept trying to explain some things to her, but she plainly wasn’t curious about how or why anything worked there. She just wanted to see everything, play with things like the remote control full-size JCB diggers and giant scrap steel magnets (the water play was good too – especially the miniature canal locks and boat) and then get outside to have fun in the playground. Which, I have to say, for all its ‘Sci-tek’ proclamations, didn’t seem to raise or answer any scientific questions for her either. It was just a lot of fun.
I think this further teaches me that when you present information and all wealth of ‘educational stimulus’ to a child on a plate, the child’s curiosity – and therefore its interest in learning – is switched off. Lyddie learns best when her innate curiosity comes from nowhere and is answered there and then, at home, with whatever is to hand.
Magna was fun, but I think we’re not going to be spending too much time and money on those kinds of outings.