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How to create fun exhibits


Why is it that so-called science centers do not succeed in attracting teenagers to their activities? Science-centre staff are asking themselves that question all over the world, and it is also the basis of a new doctoral dissertation from Luleå University of Technology in Sweden. Doctoral candidate Vaike Fors had a number of adolescents film a visit and then used the footage to chart these adolescents’ relationships to permanent exhibits.

The dissertation "The Missing Link in Learning in Science Centres" reveals that teenagers feel that a major component is missing in exhibits if they are to be used for meaningful activities.

“What is missing is the right to interpret what the purpose of the exhibit might be. Teens are looking for ways to contribute to the meaning of activities in exhibits and finding opportunities for self-development,” says Vaike Fors.

“This seems to be difficult to achieve in the traditional interactive exhibits that are so typical of science centers around the world. This might have something to do with the fact that science centers emerged during the industrial era and therefore have a cultural and ideological legacy that no longer has the same relevance in the globalized society that is now taking shape. Visitors to places like Teknikens Hus (House of Technology), Technorama, and Universum in Sweden bring new expectations and demands that these centers must relate to especially if they wish to reach young people.”

Vaike Fors’s research thus looks for explanations why teenagers generally stop going to science centers when they reach the age of 13. The question is of interest to society since Sweden is attempting to get precisely that target group more interested in science and technology. What’s more, there is the obvious importance to the centers themselves: the attitudes and opinions of teens today may be helpful to museums and science centers in their efforts to create the cultural institutions of tomorrow.

Lena Edenbrink | alfa
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