Oh, how I could have used the Theatre des Experiences during my school years! It’s not a theatre show, nor an app, or an after-school class. It’s even better as it’s an exhibition currently taking place in the Musee d’Histoire des Sciences in Geneva.
Particles and unicorns
I know not everyone will relate, but all my struggles with physics at school started when we got to things quite abstract or “invisible” – like electricity. Still, the concept of some tiny particles flying in a wire to transform into an image in my TV is quite confusing. In my head it’s in the same box as unicorns and the platform 9 3/4. But maybe… if the school offered more hands-on science, my brain would be willing to cooperate.
Hence my joy when I discovered the “Theatre des experiences” in the History of Science Museum in Geneva. There is hope for the growing-up generation.
Marc-Auguste Pictet and women
This new exhibition (till 2021) displays part of the collection left by a very distinctive scholar (for his era) – Marc-Auguste Pictet. He was teaching physics for over 40 years at the Academy in late 18th and early 19th century. He was also given courses to adults, where… women were allowed!
Anyway, he believed that physics should be taught through demonstrations and experimentation. Such a brilliant guy, don’t you think?
The right way to teach
To facilitate his believes he started collecting various tools and instruments that would serve his teaching method. 40 years of patient collecting/shopping from the best European makers. (A real Swiss!). He gathered around 500 “teaching tools”! 500!
The exhibition shows 130 of them. Some replicas have been prepared for the public (yes, us!) to play with and learn on the way. Each experiment has a manual and an explanation. Traditionally now, the texts are in both French AND English. Yey!
Z’s favorite was the one with a cloth and a transparent box with small pieces of paper that would move inside in reaction to energetic polishing. Ladies and Gentlemen – static electricity.
WHO IS IT FOR
The exhibition is recommended for everybody of ages 7 and up. It is not as playful/interactive as the last one « Roulez les mécaniques ». It demands a bit of patience (reading the the instructions) and for many kids of early-primary years, the science behind the tricks may be too complex. Physics geniuses of my kind (oh gosh, I hope there are some!) can find some instructions complex, but maybe just don’t visit it on a busy day like we did (Wednesdays, rainy weekends).